What are you thinking about? (game development edition)

Thanks for your response!

I'm favoring solution 1, nice to know someone's done something similar. Just having damage numbers without any spell animation or pausing would be nice (though I'd probably have some particle effects pop up with the damage number to indicate which dot is going off, red for burn, blue for frost, etc.).

It was more the enemies I was worried about showing damage numbers on if the camera's away from them. Like you said, player characters could show the damage taken on the HUD, but that's not workable for enemies. I could use the enemy's icon in the turn window though. Alternatively my idea for a more Xenogears-like camera may just be a dumb idea for a pixel art game. I should probably mention I'm using a 384x216 resolution with 32x32 sprites. If I go with ff6-style 24x24 sprites there would be less need for a moving camera, and it would reduce the workload. I only have a 4-directional walk cycle done for one character and it took forever so FF6-proportioned sprites are starting to look more attractive.

To deal with the last thing you mention, about higher agility changing how often to use dot-inflicting skills, I'm thinking about making the charge time for dots based on the average of all combatant's agility. Pretty much all skills will have an immediate damaging effect as well since dot damage is planned to be a percentage of the damage that inflicted it (burn = 40%, frost= 70%, poison = 100% per tick).

EDIT: I didn't want to make a whole new post to say this, but I agree with what LockeZ says below. I was overthinking things, the numbers do not need be shown every time. Also, I got the CTB system working, so that was my big accomplishment for the week lol! Turn window exists but looks rough.

What are you thinking about? (game development edition)

On a whim, I felt the desire to go with a FF10 style CTB combat system. Originally, I intended for the classic method of queueing up commands and watching them play out. I like how agility feels important without being THE most important stat in that classic system, but I'm thinking CTB would just feel more fun when your characters act immediately after input.

I don't have a whole lot of my game built so it's not a massive overhaul, but it's making me rethink how to implement some of the stuff I wanted for the battle system. The biggest issue I'm stuck on is how to handle damage over time effects, especially since I wanted a character like Riki in Xenoblade where all their damage came from dots. If casting haste on your party and slow on the opponent increases the amount of turns you get and pushes back the enemy to hardly act, then isn't this just punishing a character who relies on dots for damage? So, here's what I'm thinking:

Solution 1: Damage over time effects get their own 'turn'. They wouldn't show up on the turn window, but they would have their own amount of ticks passing and go off independently of the unit suffering their effect. I would probably have all dots on a unit get clumped together in one turn. If an enemy is already suffering burn damage and you inflict frost damage, then that frost will just go off when the burn does.

Solution 2: Dots go off when the character who inflicted them get a turn instead of when the one inflicted does. This gets dots to work with the goals of CTB, not only does casting haste on a character make them get more turns, it also makes their dots deadlier, and casting slow on an enemy reduces the threat of their dots. This might reinforce the problem of agility being too important though.

The concern I have with these is that they could slow down the combat. I wanted the FF style sideview but with a more dynamic camera. I intend to have the camera move around and center on whoever is taking a turn. Making dots go off independently of the unit their inflicted on would mean more camera movement which could get annoying. I also worry it's less clear what's going on. Then there's the general concerns for CTB: if agility becomes THAT important, casting haste and slow becomes the dominant strategy and could end up feeling like chores.

I also considered the method that a lot of modern rpgs have settled on where it's still one turn per round but actions play out after input and there's a turn window (Octopath Traveler, Xenosaga 3, Divinity: Original Sin, Tokyo Mirage Sessions for example). To me, this is a wishy washy middle-ground between the classic system and CTB that carries the strengths of neither. I never cast haste in Xenosaga 3. In classic Dragon Quest, casting agility buffs is about helping to ensure predictably for your plan to work. If you can see the order of turns and your next character gets to react to what the enemies are doing mid-round then you've thrown all that out the window. Dragon Quest XI sort of pulls it off by just not having a turn window but I've seen a fair amount of complaints regarding that. This style in general just feels like a milquetoast solution where the developers wanted the more visceral feel of CTB but didn't want to actually balance a system without strict rounds. I've decided this is probably not what I want (though I'm open to a good counter-argument in favor of this style).

Now, I've not actually built a CTB system inside of Game Maker before, though I have an idea how to go about it with data structures. Creating the turn window is giving me a bit of headache to think about (I'll probably make it more Blue Dragon than FF10). If I can't get it to work, I'll probably scratch the whole thing and go back to what I was doing.


I almost forgot I made this topic. It might be a little late to reply to some posts made several months ago, regardless I can understand how people feel Undertale was able to weave in more engaging story and character into it's battles despite Deltarune having more interesting mechanics. Yes, I ignored the story, but it just didn't interest me to talk about. I'm more of a mechanics-focused gamer than a story-focused one, not everyone feels that way, and that's okay.

I will say, I feel like anytime there's an RPG that defies conventional mechanics ('subversive' as a poster above called it), people hone in on the ways it's subversive and end up burying some of the nuances of it's mechanics. It's the same reason I get frustrated whenever I see someone praising Paper Mario but they only talk about timed button presses and the tiny integers.

When I play these subversive RPGs, I notice these little nuances and mechanical ideas that I would love to see applied to a more conventional RPG, and no one ever talks about them. Everyone has put out their two cents on the story and charm of Toby Fox's work, and they are indeed praise-worthy, but I don't want to be everyone else. That's the mindset I was in when I made this topic back in November. I didn't intend to chide off the story elements as trivial, they just didn't inspire me to write a ton of paragraphs like the mechanical nuances did.

Anyways, playing the game again on the Switch recently has me curious how other chapters could progress. Are Kris, Ralsei, and Susie the only party members for the whole ride or will Kris get different buddies per chapter with the last chapter bringing them altogether and asking us to pick between them Dragon Quest IV style? There's a reindeer-looking monster girl in your hometown who seems to have a crush on Susie and had some notable dialogue in both the prologue and the epilogue. I'm thinking she could join the party in a future chapter. I look forward to wherever it goes, hopefully we get to explore some of the Light World too.

FF7 remake. It's a thing.

Does anyone still care about this? The new trailer is nice:

The character designs are looking great. Cloud is an improvement over his sickly look from the 2015 trailer and Aerith looks lovely. The game has a slightly more toonish vibe to it than the earlier trailer. Check out those saturated green and orange lights in the scene with the Guard Scorpion, it's hot!

The teasers from 2015, and Nomura's involvement, made me think the game would lean into the Advent Children version of 7's world, but this trailer has me feeling lot better. I'm thrilled with the current aesthetic (although does anyone else think Biggs is a little too stylized compared to everyone else?)

The gameplay is still a bit of a mystery. We've known since the get-go that combat would play out in real time, but that never meant it was going to be Kingdom Hearts style like a lot of people of either been praising or bemoaning. It's possible to have real time combat and still have it feel like RPG gameplay: FF12, Xenoblade, MMOs, Dragon Age, KOTOR. I don't think FF7R is going to be as abstract as those systems, but I believe it's leaning in that direction. Imagine 60% Kingdom Hearts and 40% tab-target, I think that's what we are looking at.

My evidence: In the clip with Cloud and Aerith in the sewers battling the sahagin, the player pushes the attack button while Cloud is standing a moderate distance away from the enemy (the UI in the bottom left pulsates for every instance of player input). Cloud performs his classic floating dash from the original game to home in on the enemy and close the distance. This doesn't ask for tight precision on the player's part, it's more like FF12 where your characters automatically run to their target.

I'm guessing your character is always locked-on to an enemy like a tab-target system and performing an offensive enemy will be carried out against the target without the player needing to be precise about hitboxes. It won't be as abstract as Xenoblade where you see a damage number pop up as long as your character attacked regardless of whether your weapon actually touched the enemy - it's a AAA game, they're going to hide that stuff - but it won't ask for much more twitch skills than Xenoblade did.

The big question I have is how much of a thing mandatory damage is. We never see the characters dodge or jump. Guarding is a thing and it's a lot more Last Story than Kingdom Hearts. In KH you perform a block that lasts for a few frames and fully negates an attack during those frames. In FF7R, it looks full on Last Story, you can defend indefinitely and it halves damage you take (it'll be interesting to see if the cover system is still there and if that works like Last Story as well - it'd be nice for this game to have some Sakaguchi in its DNA). I'm wondering whether you can actually get around enemy attacks or if you have to take most hits like tab-target systems. The way your characters move just doesn't look as fluid as a full-on character action system especially with bits of automated movement. Mandatory damage would make more sense for filling limit break meters.

The last thing of note (then I promise I'll shut up), is the FF13 looking ATB gauges. In the bottom left UI, there is a label for 'commands menu' that seems to be asking for two of the blue gauges to open. My hope is that this an option to completely pause the action and que up commands for your party. It won't have the wonky stop-and-go flow of crpg real-time-with-pause systems but, again, could be more like the Last Story where you could pause the game when your skill gauge filled up after twenty-ish seconds so you have to decide when is the best time to expend the resource and pause the game.

I'm still fairly excited for this game. I was a Nintendo kid who didn't have a playstation and I was pretty young when FF7 came out. It wasn't until the PSN release that I played it, so I don't have the strong attachment to this game of a lot of other jrpg fans do. This may be skewing my outlook to the more glass-half-full side of things. I can understand why others who grew up with the game would be grumpy about though. I've been viewing it as just a new RPG to look forward to with characters I already know I like.

A Deep Dive into Paper Mario's Design Philosophy

On the extreme side of things if every battle was a chess match where you have to think 5 moves ahead the length and frequency of the battles (meant to progress your character) would get tiring.

This resonates with me. As much I don't want the battles to be mindless, the opposite extreme isn't particularly attractive either. I loved Radiant Historia, but I ran from nearly everything because of this. The combat system led to some pretty great fights and boss battles, but it could've used a few chill encounters.

And yes, Paper Mario has stuff that effects later turns. Some notable examples being Bombery's ability to lay down traps that explode a round or two later being good against encounters that summons adds, and Vivian's DOTs being useful on enemies that clones themselves and make you pick the real one. The burn damage will go off on all clones at once, hurting the real one and dissipating the clones before the player even has to guess which one is the real one. That was a pretty satisfying interaction even if it was a simple one (If you don't find them too annoying, you can see the Game Grumps accidentally stumble on this tactic at around 10:20 in this video Granted, I don't think the above poster was in doubt of this, rather he was saying the set ups that effect later turns lack unpredictability.

Paper Mario has buffs/debuffs as well. For my own playthrough of TTYD, I went all in on the jumpman badge (boosts jump power at the cost of disabling all hammer abilities) and got a fair bit of mileage out of shrink/soft/sleep stomp. Also, that star power that boosts your attack and defense is a lifesaver in the latter half of the game.

Most you're typical spell effects like buffs/debuffs and crowd control come from items and star powers. I recognize your partners only gain a maximum of four skills, but items are still stuff you're using in battle to gain an advantage. It doesn't need to cost MP to be a skill. In all RPGs, items are really just skills with a different cost system. Even among your four partner skills, there's a few interesting utility ones like Shell Shield and Rally Wink. I think four partner skills, the ability to switch partners at the cost of a turn (or you could freely swap in battle by converting the previous cost into badge points), items, and star powers gives you decent enough sized toolbox where just about everything fills some niche.

For example, here's a video of all the boss fights ( Skip to 3:03:00 where the Bonetail (the optional superboss) battle begins. The player uses an interesting strategy based around the charge ability to stack attack buffs. He uses Rally Wink to give Mario an additional turn to stack buffs faster and Shell Shield to keep Mario alive while he buffs. I know these sort of tactics aren't usable in most the normal gameplay, but I think this shows that some more complex actions and strategies are still possible inside PM's system.

You can probably see why I'm getting some mixed messages when I see people say things along the lines of "it requires more decision making than most RPGs, but you don't want to emulate it." I think that's my fault. I started a topic asking about how to bring PM design to a more normal RPG, but I never gave any sort of a priori description of what a normal RPG is. I never had interest in just sticking to a leader and a partner. I was imagining maintaining a four person party and queuing up commands at the start of a round to then play out based on agility stats, all of that would still be there.

To generate ideas, I've been doing a thought experiment on what the first few areas of Dragon Quest III would be like with my ideas applied. I picked the game as it's a favorite of mine and the most quintessential jrpg in my eyes. It's long so I'm putting it in spoilers, but to give you an idea of what I'm envisioning of a traditional RPG with PM design principles, I thought I'd share it:

You would still have a party four. There wouldn't be the strict party line-up where only the first member of the line-up can be hit with ground attacks, the only positioning would enemies on the ground and those in the air (we are ditching DQ's usual enemy grouping for this). Combat has you decide your commands at the beginning of round and then they act out based on the agility stat like DQ and unlike PM's phases.

Now I did apply some of my original ideas to this that aren't in either Dragon Quest or Paper Mario. Every character has a maximum of 20MP that doesn't change for the whole game and there's plenty of skills the generate MP. I find traditional MP that slowly dwindles throughout a dungeon ridiculously hard to balance, and I like the pacing between phases of generating and expenditure, it gives a sense of flow.

At the beginning you pick your party. We'll ditch the goof-off and add in the thief from the SNES version. We'll give each class four abilities and a passive to offer us an idea of their playstyle. This wouldn't have to be the maximum, and I would probably have the game start with just two, but for this experiment let's just keep four skills the whole way through:

Hero (Erdrick/Loto/Roto - whatever you want to call him)
- Slash: One hit of 8 damage to a foe. Builds 3MP on hit. (Weapon attack)
- Pummel: Leap at a foe from the air to deal two hits of 4 damage. Builds 1MP per hit. (Fisticuff attack)
- Cleave: One hit of 14 damage to a foe. Costs 5MP. (Weapon attack)
- Heal: Restore 10HP to an ally. Costs 8MP.
- Gifts 5HP to all party members whenever buffed.

- Bash: One hit of 8 damage to a foe. Builds 4MP. (Weapon attack)
- Taunt: Draw aggression of all enemies and reduce the attack power of the targeted foe. 50/50 chance to gain 1MP when attacked for two rounds.
- Cyclone: One hit of 8 damage to all foes on the ground. Costs 8MP. (Weapon attack)
- Shield Slam: One hit of 6 damage to a foe. Stuns target for two rounds (plus another turn to get up). Costs 5MP. (Weapon attack)
- Increase attack power by 2 when MP is over 10.

- Jab Combo: Three hits of 4 damage to a foe. Builds 2MP per hit. (Fisticuff attack).
- High Kick: Strike a target from the air with one hit of 8 damage. Steals 4MP. (Fisticuff attack).
- Intimidate: High chance to stun foes on the ground and reduce their MP. Costs 10MP.
- Battle Soul: Reduce own HP by a third to instantly generate 10MP.
- Evasion chance drastically improves as HP goes down.

- Blaze: One hit of 6 damage, inflict fire DOT. The pilgrim receives 2MP every time the targeted enemy takes damage from the fire dot. (Indirect attack)
- Buff: Increases an ally's defense by 3-6 for two rounds.
- Dazzle: Drastically reduce all enemies' accuracy for the rest of the current round and all of the next round. Costs 5MP.
- Heal: Restore 10HP to an ally. Costs 8MP.
- Recover 3-5MP after battle.

- Crack: One defense-piercing hit of 8 damage to an enemy. The target's defense is reduced by up to 4 points for one round. (Indirect attack)
- Drain: Steal 4-6 MP from an enemy. Steal 8 at full health.
- Sleep: Put an enemy to sleep for two rounds. Costs 3MP.
- Sizzle: Hit all enemies for 12 defense-piercing damage. Costs 16MP. (Indirect attack)
- 50/50 chance of gaining 1MP whenever an ally generates MP.

- Clobber: Two hits of 4 damage to one target. Builds 2MP per hit. (Fisticuff attack)
- Oomph: Double an ally's attack power for a turn.
- M-Pathy: Gift all MP to an ally. The receiving ally gains even more MP than the merchant has to give when their health is full.
- Baton Pass: Give your turn to an ally. MP costs will be reduced for the selected ally. Costs 6MP.
- 50/50 chance of enemies dropping double the gold.

- Lacerate: One hit of 6 damage to a target. Reduce target's defense for one turn. Builds 3MP. (Weapon attack).
- Air Slash: Two hits of 4 damage from the air. Builds 1MP per hit. (Weapon attack).
- Tranquilizer: One hit of 4 damage that puts an enemy to sleep for two turns. Costs 3MP. (Weapon attack)
- Victimizer: One hit of 8 damage to a target. Damage is more than doubled against sleeping targets. Costs 6MP. (Weapon attack)
- Fleeing from battle is always successful while in the party.

Then for enemies we could have:
- Slime: 8HP, 4ATK, 0DEF. Become enraged when fellow slimes die, gaining 1 defense for a turn and performing a heavy attack.
- Raven: 12HP, 4ATK, 0DEF, flying, boosts agility of fellow monsters.
- Spiked Hare: 8HP, 4ATK, 0DEF, spike on head hurts characters using fisticuff attacks from the air, high agility, high chance of starting battle with a strong attack.
- Poison Frog: 16HP, 4ATK, 0DEF, jumps up and down every other turn alternating whether it's on the ground or in the air, inflicts poison dot, can put a player character to sleep.
- Putrid Pup: 12HP, basic attacks hits twice for 4 damage, 0DEF, little to resistance against accuracy debuffs.
- Iron Crab: 12HP, 8ATK, 4DEF, can summon more Iron Crabs.
- Dracky: 10HP, 4ATK, 0DEF, basic attack steals HP.
- Fire Spirit: 8HP, 4ATK, 0DEF, basic attack inflicts a fire dot, can't be hit with any fisticuff attack ground-based or aerial. (From 8 not 3, but they work for the Paper Mario mechanics).

In this system you have the ground/air separation, aerial enemies can only be hit by aerial attacks, there's the exposed body vs. long disjoint difference. All the main things I like about Paper Mario. Here you would take these things into consideration when developing a party.

On top of that, there would be interactions to consider. The merchant may be useless in and off himself but his attack power buff not only doubles an ally's attack, it also heals the party when cast on the hero due to his passive. The fighter has stuns and abilities that steal/reduce MP to try and shut down enemies which works with his high agility and the fact he'll likely be acting first each round. The Soldier has a stun the much longer than the fighter's but he also is likely to act last every battle. I made the pilgrim here more of a sustained magic attacker while the wizard is all about burst damage and relying on his party members to help him gain back his MP.

The numbers obviously aren't tweaked. I just threw out a general estimation of what gave the general picture. You can see there's an idea of weak attacks gaining more MP than stronger ones to offer some tradeoff to consider. Some skills neither generate nor costs MP directly. They instead costs it indirectly by taking a turn you could've spent on a MP-generating skill.

Some stuff is still a little murky to fit in with Paper Mario. The idea of some characters generating MP from DOT ticks is hard to communicate unless I make sure every skill with a DOT is portrayed as a different element.

For anyone who took the time read this, do you think these ideas could work or do they fall too far into the lock-and-key trap? Hopefully this serves as an example we can keep the essence of PM's design while offering more interactions between party member skills and resource-cost/generation to offer more considerations beyond just "hit aerial monsters with aerial attacks" while not ditching it entirely. If not, then it's back to drawing board for me.

A Deep Dive into Paper Mario's Design Philosophy

The predictability is my biggest concern. I'm really struggling to find the sweet spot between predictable enough for everything to be forgone conclusions and not predictable enough where everything feels like trial and error. Is more RNG the solution?

Take status effects. Part of me feels like I should just make the resistances binary. Some enemies will have 100% immunity, but nothing will have a 35% chance to resist. In Final Fantasy XII where the status effects feel impactful, I tend to spend the beginning of tough battles throwing out dark and slow until they finally set. If it takes too long, I can always just try the fight again and see if I get better dice rolls. I really want to avoid that.

Above, I described a system I've been stewing over based on Paper Mario's predictability and my desire to have - as someone else eloquently described as - getting enemy mechanics to scale with player mechanics. In that hypothetical battle system where I had two slimes, kill one slime and the other gets enraged by boosting it's defense and preparing for a strong skill, now the player knows what happens when they kill a slime with other slimes around and can plan for that. Would it be better if other slimes only had a 50/50 chance to enrage at the sight of their kin dying?

I get what you guys are saying when you say not to emulate it. In the opening post, I said wasn't interested in a verbatim interpretation, but it's possibly I'm simply not discerning enough to dig out the parts that are worth examining. Should I ditch the ground/air positioning in favor of rows or Dragon Quest style grouping?

I did consider making it so any attack can hit aerial enemies, not just specifically designated aerial attacks, but you would be put into a state of vulnerability. Of course, if I go too far in this direction, I fear losing that design elegance I really want.

A Deep Dive into Paper Mario's Design Philosophy

Paper Mario is a nice first RPG for preschoolers who are still learning to read. If you're making a game for a higher age group, not much about it is really worth emulating.

Hi, thanks for your response! I was interested to see if anyone had a negative outlook on PM's design. I feel you're being somewhat vague, however. You present the conclusion it's for kids and not worth emulating, but haven't shown us your work on how you got there.

The only criticism you point out is the two party member system and the way the front member can be used as a meat shield. I agree it's problem. The Bug Fables video I posted above mentioned this problem. That games looks to get rid of the system while still maintaining the overall design ethos of Paper Mario.

The big takeaway ideas from PM we've be discussing - as stated in the opening post - are things like the separation of attacks that hit with exposed body vs. a long disjoint, the ground/air positioning, the meaningful difference between multi-hit attacks and strong single hit attacks in a system with subtractive defense, and moves having multiple properties that open up to a number of different interactions which can be communicated to the player with intuitive visual design. That's a lot a lot to sweep under the rug as not worth emulating or looking for inspiration from.

It's tautological to say Paper Mario is for kids. I'm certain we all understand that it is. This gets to the heart of what I'm asking. When I wonder if these design elements I like can be applied to a "real" RPG, I'm asking what a grown-up Paper Mario would look like. Darken offered the proposition above about making similar game just harder, I think it's doable, and Bug Fables looks like it's heading in that direction.

Do you feel these elements fall to heavily into the lock-and-key design problem I talked about in the opening post? Are you saying these design elements intrinsically create childish and simple gameplay because the lock-and-key design - or possibility recognition as the article Darken linked to called it - are too obvious? I get the sense you feel these elements can't be divorced from childish gameplay because childish gameplay is the inevitable result of laying down a system like this in the first place. Is that an accurate summation of what you're trying to get at?

EDIT: It struck me your post might've been meant as a reaction to what I said regarding Super Mario RPG as I said it wasn't worth talking about and then you used similar language regarding Paper Mario. Even if I'm wrong about that, I will concede it was unfair of me to be so dismissive about it. Here's a proper explanation for why it doesn't click with me:

SMRPG does usual visuals in the enemy design to communicate ideas like not jumping spikey enemies, but the mechanics surrounding that are too abstract. Jump isn't an action that shares properties with other aerial actions, it's just an element for specials no different than fire or thunder, and Mario is the only party member with access to jump-elemental skills. It's not that jumping on spikey enemies will hurt you, the enemy just has immunity to the jump element. Flying enemies don't need to be taken down with aerial attacks, they just have high defense and a weakness to the jump element. It lacks the elegance Paper Mario has. I personally can't find much to say about the game because I just see rough draft for Paper Mario when I look at it. I'd love to see a good argument in it's favor if anyone feels different.

A Deep Dive into Paper Mario's Design Philosophy

Thank you both for the responses, you've been very helpful!

Paper Mario is definitely an improvement over the original Mario RPG. I know a lot of people love that game to death and the Geno character has gained something of a cult following always asking for him in smash bros, but I never saw it as anything special. It just doesn't do much that seems worth talking about.

I'm a big fan of spatial/positional stuff too. I love when RPGs have targeting options beyond single or all enemies. I was thinking about doing the Dragon Quest thing where multiple of the same enemy in an encounter are considered one group. You have attacks that hit one enemy, one group, or all enemies with the latter being rare and expensive to do. This might make the system too convoluted with the separation of ground and aerial positions added on top of that. Rows might work as well, then enemies can have more targeting options too.

I read what you and Darken wrote in the other thread about Into the Breach. I haven't played it but heard a lot of praise for it. I saw there's a GDC talk with one the game's designers, that might be worth a watch. While, I see value in the idea of hidden information (at least to an extent), being able to clearly communicate what the enemy's about to do while maintaining difficulty sounds like a wonderful feat to pull off. Usually you have to rely on patterns or the enemy taking a turn to charge up which means you need longer battles and typically have to learn by getting hit with the big attack (the khalamari boss near the beginning of Dragon Quest 8 can easily wipe your party before enough rounds have passed to see his 5-turn pattern for instance).

I agree about the usefulness of palette swaps. You can even do things where you add extra visual elements to the same enemy to portray different interactions. A slime enemy could be squished when they're hit preventing them from acting next round. A slime with a helmet will need to have it's helm broken before they can be squished. Dealing an attack that hits twice will be able to break the helmet and squish the slime in one turn. I'd like to do stuff like that.

Great suggestions, they've given me a lot more directions to consider, I especially like the stance idea. That suggestion, along with the Mario & Luigi examples you offered in the other thread, got me thinking of a system where enemy react to being hit or having their fellow monsters perish. Kill one slime, and the other slimes become enraged next turn boosting their attack and defense. The first slime was a one-hit kill, but other two won't with the defense boost warranting stuns or defending.

Paper Mario sort of does that first bullet point with its turtle party member. Just as enemy turtle can be flipped over and stunned by aerial attacks, so can your buddy turtle. When playing the game, I remember thinking it'd be nice if they did that sort of parity for more party members.

And no, PM doesn't have advantages for keeping enemies in the air or throwing them back up, though it's not hard to imagine some ways I could do that. Atmospheric-themed spells that only effect air enemies or having a physical skills like a jump kick that stuns enemies when hit from beneath them so it would only be useful against flying or large-sized enemies are ideas I've had.

General idea I've cooked up:
So, now I'm thinking of a system where hovering the cursor over an enemy when selecting which to target shows who the enemy is eyeing and the name of the skill they'll use on their next turn along with a symbol denoting a physical or magic skill.

Take the example above and apply to the beginning of a game where you start with only one party member. The first battle is against two creeping slimes. Both are one hit kills. Killing one causes the other to enrage boosting it's defense by a small amount and causing it to use the move "Body Slam" which deals more than double damage. The player will see the enemy's next move listed as Body Slam instead of normal attack and can probably figure it'll be strong move and maybe choose to defend a round instead of attacking knowing it's no longer a one-hit kill (defend will reduce damage by 75% instead of the usual 50%).

The second battle would be against two creeping slimes and a brutish hobgoblin. The hobgoblin always uses Body Slam on its first turn. The player will see this when they target the enemy. They've generated enough TP from the first battle to use a stun skill that deals no damage but puts one enemy out of commission for two rounds. They recognize the name Body Slam as the strong attack the enraged slime used last battle so they can figure out to stun the hobgoblin on round 1, one shot a slime round 2, defend round 3 to deal with the enraged slime, and then either one shot the slime on round 4 or deal with the hobgoblin since the slime's damage output will ne negligible without a way to get enraged again.

I think I could continue to build on an idea like that. There would be a small pool skills shared by a bunch of enemies like Body Slam so players would be rewarded for paying attention and recognizing ones they've seen before to know how to act. There would be more ways to shut down enemies as the game went on, not just crowd control but debuffs and skills that deplete/steal enemy TP.

Throw aerial/ground positioning and rows on top of this as well as defensive enemies that are strong to multi-hit attacks and evasive enemies that are dealt with by magic or highly accurate attacks, and do you think a system like this could work without being too convoluted? Would it be giving too much information away or is the information given too obscure?

It would also be nice to start with only two skills in this system: a basic attack that builds TP and a stun that costs it while still having some variety and different things to consider.

A Deep Dive into Paper Mario's Design Philosophy

Thanks for the response and thanks for directing me to that article, it goes over a lot of what I've been trying to aim for. You're first paragraph sums up my problem in a very nice and concise way.

I like your proposition, and agree it's a good starting place. Though, the general idea may have been done already. After writing this, I remembered hearing about an indie game a year ago that was trying to be a spiritual successor to Thousand Year Door with bugs. I went looking around for it and found Bug Fables. It's not out yet, but there's a demo.

I found a video analyzing what it does with the combat:
I don't exactly like the presentation but no one else seems to be talking about the game. Looks like an interesting game. The video points out some problems with Paper Mario, they essentially fall into the lock-and-key design that I was talking about (or possibility recognition as you referred to it). I don't agree with every conclusion the video comes to, but it does nice job going over what's all going on with this game's combat without actually playing it.

Interestingly, the difference between attacking with a weapon or exposed body is gone. It seems the designers of Bug Fables boiled that down to an extension of the aerial vs. ground attack difference. That largely holds true for Paper Mario, though characters like Vivian and Mowz hit from the front with exposed body attacks. They then cut it down even further to a difference between direct and indirect (throwing) attacks. It's a little weird there doesn't seem to be aerial attacks as the characters are bugs with wings, but I suppose that's a trivial thing.

I'll try to make time to play through the demo myself this week. It's neat to see another game trying to work inside the same framework as PM.

You mentioned Mario RPGs playing well to the crowd tired of conventional RPGs. The thing is, I'm not really wanting to play to that crowd myself. I do think my idea for a game would generally be considered to be on the more conventional side of things, I'm not really one of those people that think RPGs need to re-invent the wheel to be good.

After really thinking about it over the last few days, I could boil what I want out of a combat system down to this: I want a player to get into battle with a new group of enemies they've never seen before, but be able to form a smart strategy how to shut enemies down and mitigate damage taken in a few turns as possible based on strong visual ques, positioning, and understanding the tools in their possession as well as the interactions possible with those tools.

Too many times in a game, I'll meet a new enemy and just have no idea what actually works on it or how it's going to behave. So, I just spam basic attacks and - if it's a game where status effects are reliable - have one party member rotate through the usual crowd control effects until one sticks. Then at some point I'll say to myself, "Oh I guess I should've sapped it's defense and tossed blind on it". But by the point it's already half dead and so I just take it as knowledge for the next time I fight one of these and go ahead spamming basic attacks to finish this one off. I hate this sort of trial and error design where you end up just spamming basic attacks until you see the enemy do something warranting a little more strategy.

I feel in Paper Mario, even if it's the first time I'm encountering an enemy, I can usually immediately tell I'll need to do some different stuff just by looking at it. If there's nothing else I take from Paper Mario, it's this. If I can just get this down, I feel a lot more confident in my game.

I like how you put: figuring out how player mechanics scale with enemy mechanics. A very succinct way to express what I'm trying to accomplish. I suppose I should really just start building encounters and see if ideas come. No better way to learn something than just jumping into it.

Thanks, again for your response!

What are you thinking about? (game development edition)

I like those examples you posted, having not played the game myself. Honestly, I forgot there was another Mario RPG series. The main thing I'm getting about what works for the enemy design in both has a lot to do with animation. As someone who is trying to do all the pixel art for my project alone, enemy animation is quite the task, but maybe it really would be worth it in the end.

EDIT: I misread what your point was about first FF bosses and realized I just said a bunch of redundant stuff. Sorry about that, I should've read more carefully.

I completely agree with what you said about the enemies in the Mario IP easily lend themselves to interesting puzzles in the process of figuring how to convert them for a turn based game. My issue is, shouldn't that be even easier with a completely original work? You have full creative control without worrying about adhering to anything that already exists. So why do so many RPGs making completely new enemies often fail to give them a lot of variety and different ways to interact with the player? It makes me wonder if the creativity specifically comes from the process of interpreting platformer enemies into a different genre. Maybe I should start doing some thought experiments about adapting something like Devil May Cry enemies into a turn based game.

I saw your post in the Paper Mario thread. Thank you for posting there, the blog post you linked looks interesting I'm going to give a read later today when I have some time. Thanks again for posting it.

The elemental orbs are set by completing a "blade combo". The first elemental blade special you use on an enemy gets set as a status effect visible on the top right of the foe's nameplate. Two more specials can be stacked on top of this and the last (third) special stacked determines the element of the orb. It gets weird because you can't stack any element on top of another. There are set paths of elements you have to do and they're all arbitrary. For instance fire>water>fire is a usable combo as is water>earth>wind and water>water>dark, they all have weird names for each combo to. You're best of finding a spreadsheet for all possible combos, I think the wiki has one. This doesn't apply to Torna though, the basic system's still there but it's handled differently.

Spamming double edge with Mythra is indeed the path of least resistance. Most the challenge you'll find in Xenoblade 2 is self-imposed. It's why I soloed superbosses with Morag and took advantage of the dots set by her specials instead of actually completing a blade combo and sitting on my charged up level 4 special waiting to use it's invincibility frames for when the level 130 boss uses his instant death attack.

There's a guy on youtube named Enel who has videos showing a bunch of crazy things you can do with specific blade set ups in the post game and dlc challenge mode. Unfortunately most of Xenoblade 2's tactics are really only usable in the post game content.

I've never really played MMOs. I have some social anxiety issues that always made the genre seem daunting to me. But I have watched a lot videos for Final Fantasy XIV and would like to see some ideas implemented into a single-player game. The first Xenoblade was my first experience with this sort of "tab-target" real-time but still abstract and stat-based style of battle design and I really like it when done well. I've read people say things like xenoblade should either be full turn based or full action instead of experimenting in the middle, but it just clicks for me for whatever reason.

EDIT 2: Cut some stuff here because this post was monstrously long and what I was saying wasn't very interesting. The gist of it was that, I really like AOE-indicator idea from FF14. If I were to design a game with a movement aspect, I would like to incorporate it. Also, the Pillars of Eternity games look to do some interesting stuff with the same kind of AOE markings, though I haven't played them yet.

One thing I do disagree on is how other mobs can pulled into your fight in Xenoblade 2. For me, it just made it feel like the game wanted me to care more about the environment you're in and it worked. Be aware of the space around me and carefully using the lure mechanic to get enemies alone was one of the parts of Xenoblade 2 that made me actually feel like I was being creative and tactical. Xenoblade X did this to an even greater extreme. I fully understand why other would find it annoying though.

And Builders 2 looks great, looking forward to picking it whenever the switch version comes out (this summer, I think).