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.
The Unofficial Squaresoft MUD is a free online game based on the worlds and combat systems of your favorite Squaresoft games. UOSSMUD includes job trees from FFT and FF5, advanced classes from multiple other Square games, and worlds based extremely accurately upon Chrono Trigger, Secret of Mana, and Final Fantasies 5, 6, and 7. Travel through the original worlds and experience events that mirror those of the original games in an online, multiplayer format.

If a large, highly customized MUD, now over 10 years old and still being expanded, with a job system and worlds based on some of the most popular console RPGs seems interesting to you, feel free to log on and check it out. Visit uossmud.sandwich.net for information about logging on.
Born Under the Rain
Why does the jackal run from the rain?


Nonlinearity being used to temper high difficulty

Playing Dark Souls 3 and contrasting it to Dark Souls 1, it occured to me that the difficulty in DS3 was far more frustrating because of how linear the game is. In Dark Souls 1, unless you're nearly at the end of the game, you almost always have five or six different places you could potentially go at the moment. When you run into something exceptionally difficult, this means you have the option to go back and take a different route instead. You'll end up doing almost everything eventually - a big part of the game is exploring every nook and cranny - but every dungeon has multiple exits and many of them have multiple entrances, so you have a lot of control over what order you do everything in (without having complete control).

In Dark Souls 3, you usually only have one place you can go. The level design is still really good and you still feel like you're exploring within each dungeon. But 90% of the time, you only do one dungeon at a time, and that dungeon only has one entrance and one exit. If there's a boss, you can't do anything else until you beat it, except maybe look around for treasures you missed. If there's a tough set of enemies in your way, you can't do anything else until you beat them, except maybe look around for treasures you missed. Almost every single challenge blocks the entire rest of the game behind it.

I get exhausted a lot faster in Dark Souls 3. I suppose I was "taking the game at my own pace" in Dark Souls 1. The linearity translates into exhaustion for me, somehow. I don't know how common this phenomenon is for players, though.

Although the game is meant to be very difficult, and the nonlinearity technically makes it easier (because you can wait to do the things you keep failing at until your character is stronger), I don't feel like the nonlinearity interferes with the my sense of satisfaction and victory when I win. In fact, I think it actually increases it, because when I give up on a boss and come back later, I've built it up in my mind to be a gigantic challenge, so it's much more satisfying to win.

I dunno if I really have a question, but I want to hear other people talk about this. I'm wondering if people have used this in interesting ways, or if there's anyone who sees a major upside to this type of linearity in the context of a difficult game about overcoming challenges.

Assaulting players with the nerf bat

Breaking news: making nerfs to specific strategies in established games causes players to get pissy. They made decisions about how to build their party, they invested hours/days/weeks of their time based on the fact that the strategy they were using was best, they spent a ton of gold and AP and ore and lumber, and now those decisions are suddenly invalid and their party sucks. But not because they planned wrong - they planned perfectly for the game they were playing. But then the game was changed out from under them.

Mostly this happens in online games, which is where I've experienced it as a developer, and where it's typically the most serious because the amount of time invested by players is the highest. But I'm sure it can also happen in episodic-release games where player progress is carried over between episodes. Or, it can happen if you release a new version of your game, and your game keeps itself updated to the latest version automatically, as all Steam games do.

(Even if you never release any new versions, you can still kinda get this problem if you just reduce the power of an ability/character at a certain point in the game, or even just change how it works, or if you suddenly start making all enemies resistant to it. However these situations are all just objectively bad design, and I'm not sure there's much discussion potential beyond "Don't do that." To which people will just respond "I'm not!" even though some of them totally are, they just don't realize it.)

But despite the bitching, sometimes shit just needs to be nerfed. Sometimes you don't run the numbers enough before releasing a game, or don't consider certain combinations, and one option is so good that the rest of the game becomes pointless and unsatisfying. Other times you don't mind that there's a single most optimal way to play the game, you just mind that it's also the least fun way, so you have to fix it. Sometimes you have a multiplayer game, or a game with leaderboards, so balance is just ultra vital. Sometimes you can add power creep to every other option instead of nerfing the OP option, but that always causes its own set of problems.

All of that was just setting up the premise for my big question. My big question is how to keep players from going ballistic over these nerfs.

THROWDOWN! Fight to the finish! Who will survive!?

In this thread, you come up with a deathmatch between two battlers. The next person, very briefly, answers who would win and why/how. Then they post their own two contestants, whose battle the next person will decide the winner of.

Try to keep the answers to two or three sentences at most, unless it just deeply pains your soul not to explain the battle in detail.

I will begin:

Dr. House vs. Dr. Zoidberg

Health bars in RPGs: an actual game design discussion

What are your preferences regarding visible health bars for enemies, specifically in turn-based games such as RPGs?

More important than your preferences, what types of games do you think need to show enemy health bars, or at least benefit from it? Are there games you think don't?

Does it matter if it's just a bar, or numbers, or both? When do you think it's appropriate to show them on screen all the time, versus having to press a key to bring up enemy data, versus having to spend a turn scanning the enemy, or equip a Sightscope accessory, or defeat ten of the enemy to unlock the bestiary entry?

In Final Fantasy Tactics, and most other tactical RPGs, the enemy health - and MP, and attack, and defense, and speed, and class, and passive skills - is visible any time the player is selecting an enemy to target. FF Tactics would not function as a game without this information being available to the player. The main point of the game is evaluating the situation in detail, and making tactical decisions based on that information. Even partial failure is heavily punished - it's possible for the player's party members to permanently die. The main theme of the game is the ability to read the situation at a master level and plan a complex strategy accordingly - this theme extends into the storyline as well, which is all about Larg and Goltana and Delita's plots and counter-plots.

To some extent, this sorta applies to the entire RPG genre. Almost any time a turn-based RPGs is meant to be challenging, the challenge revolves around the player figuring out the best strategy to deal with enemies - that's why they're turn-based, to give the player time to think. However, that's not always true. And in some cases you might intentionally want the player to have to figure out that information on their own instead of being given it for free, which in certain types of games can add another layer of strategy (though only a tiny fraction of players actually enjoy figuring out things like damage algorithms).

At the opposite end of the spectrum is Super Mario RPG. This game doesn't have health bars and doesn't need them. In fact, while adding health bars to Mario RPG wouldn't cause as many problems as removing them from FF Tactics, I'd argue that adding them would make the game less fun. One of the most noteworthy features of Mario RPG, and the main way it maintains the player's attention and enjoyment, is that it is constantly throwing new, unexpected things at the player. There are dozens of crazy minigames, between dungeons and even in the middle of them sometimes, where the player suddenly stops fighting enemies and instead rides a mine cart or slides down a waterfall or hops over barrels while chasing Booster up a hill. The dungeons are full of platforming segments that never do the same thing twice, and even the RPG combat never lingers long enough to let the player really become comfortable with a strategy. Everything is new, new, new, all the time. (And it's good that it is, because the RPG combat is extremely simplistic and would become boring fast otherwise.) Adding visible HP bars would let the player predict some aspects of the rest of the battle, see a few steps ahead, which would actually interfere with that main goal of keeping the player in a constant state of wonder.

Other types games where you might want to restrict that information are games which have an overarching theme of being kept in the dark. This would be true in almost any horror game, as well as games which might have a story about the protagonist being stepped on by people who control the world's information. Giving out information about the enemy would not go well with the theme of such a game.

I think in many non-tactical RPGs, it doesn't really matter one way or the other whether the player can see enemy HP at all. There are far more games where it's useful to add it than games where it's useful to hide it, though.

Maker vs Tsukuru Tutorials

We have RPG Maker 2000 and RPG Tsukuru 2000 listed as separate engines now, and we also have RPG Maker 2003 and RPG Tsukuru 2003 listed as separate engines.

I noticed recently that this creates a problem with regards to tutorials - when you search for RM2K3 tutorials you only get like two results. In the future, people who search for Tsukuru tutorials will miss out on all the more recent tutorials in their search results. I wonder if there's a way to separate the games but combine the tutorials. Maybe you could mark in the tutorial which version it was written for, but just combine the search results? (This could potentially be done for games as well, I guess?)

Another more complex option would be to add the ability to mark a tutorial as being for multiple engines. All the 2000 and 2003 tutorials could then be automatically marked as being for both translations of the engine.

Any character's death = game over

An idea was brought up in another topic about making it so that any party member's death resulted in a game over, instead of the more typical style of only getting a game over after all members are dead. They were talking about the story when discussing reasons to do this, but I want to talk about the gameplay.

Very few games actually do this. The Fire Emblem series practically does this, by making it so all deaths are permanent - the game doesn't typically force you to restart the battle, but 99% of the time, you will. So figuring out what side-effects this would have in a more complex game is largely theoretical.

In Fire Emblem you can definitely see one way it influences gameplay design - the game's tactical combat gives the player the ability to partially choose which characters get hit by which enemies, and forces the player to take advantage of this. The player makes sure they only ever make each character fight enemies that they're defensively strong against, unless they can kill the enemy before it gets a turn. If the game didn't provide these options 100% of the time, it would be unplayable.

So as a game designer, it seems like you'd probably need to make sure the player can control who gets hurt by which enemies. In a non-tactical RPG, this would probably be done by some kind of threat/tanking system, rather than by positioning like it's done in Fire Emblem. But if one character is taking all the hits, like in a typical tanking system, does that defeat the purpose of such a system?

If the party members were all equally hardy and had no particular defensive strengths or weaknesses, that level of tanking/threat control wouldn't be as necessary, but the game would also be a lot more randomly punishing. If there are four party members and three enemies, there's a 1/64 chance for all three enemies to attack the same character. That is really obnoxious and feels like bullshit when it happens. Despite how rare it is, the player would always have to spend every action assuming this would happen, because if it does and the character dies, it's a game over. So they would spend a lot of turns healing anyone who's below 100% HP, and defending with anyone whose HP is below the maximum total damage all enemies can do combined if they all use their strongest attacks. If the enemies can crit, it gets even stupider.

How would you handle a system that gives a game over when one character dies? What other problems do you think it would face, and what are some ideas to deal with them? Would you treat status effects differently, or what?

RMN Plays: Final Fantasy Tactics Randomizer Hack

There was an attempt by Trihan a couple months ago to do an RMN Plays: Final Fantasy Tactics Advance. The idea was fun, but it moved really slowly because it was going turn by turn.

So this'll work a little differently. You guys can give lots of suggestions at once, for multiple characters and multiple actions, and even just sort of general strategies. Anything goes. If you tell me to do it, I'll try to do it (unless it's something just absolutely monumentally stupid that I'm worried it will put the game in an unwinnable state). This also means you can give pseudo-commands like "Attack that chemist on the rooftop with whoever gets a turn next" or "Have everyone group up in a phalanx formation" or "Use Ramza's strongest skill" instead of having to specify exact tiles to move onto. However, if you want to specify exact tiles to move onto, go for it.

Actions submitted will be executed in the priority they're submitted, but not necessarily the order they're submitted, since I can't control what order the characters get their turns in.

This is open to anyone, you don't have to sign up or anything, feel free to just show up out of the blue with a brand new rpgmaker.net account and yell "DRINK A POTION"

Also, this is important: I'm not playing a normal copy of Final Fantasy Tactics. I'm using a hack called "Rumble Chaos Crashdown" that randomly changes many aspects of the game. Jobs have different skills, stats, and equipment selection. The job tree is randomized, so jobs will be unlocked in a random order. Spells may have be stronger or weaker than normal. The special jobs of unique characters will act differently. Enemy monsters will be changed randomly. And so forth. One of the options in this hack was "Enable special surprises," and I turned that option on, so I'm not even sure what all will happen.

Without further ado, let's begin the game:

...I did that in Photoshop, the hack doesn't actually change the title screen.

Our game begins in Orbonne Monastery, with Princess Ovelia praying for the souls of her country.

...We are experiencing technical difficulties.

When was the last time I used ePSXe, anyway? I bet this version is close to a decade old. I think I need to adjust some things in the video settings.

Everything else is fine, just this one text box looks goofy, so I'll worry about it later.

We're introduced to Agrias, the holy knight and Princess Ovelia's loyal bodyguard, as well as Gafgarion, the dark knight and mercenary hired to protect her. Our main character, LockeZ, nee Ramza, has the blue shirt.

Suddenly a female knight bursts into the room, looking suspiciously like a male ninja. Or maybe "Female Knight" is just his name. Already I like this hack.

We learn that the main character is also a mercenary, working with Gafgarion.

Duke Goltana, of the house of the Black Lion, has sent kidnappers to abduct the princess. His kidnappers include three mimes, which is a little weird. One of them apparently has a crush on Agrias.

The virtues of our holy knight clash with the pragmatism of our dark knight. Though, I don't really think Goltana wants us to kill them all. I think he probably wants them to kill us.

...I guess Gafgarion won the argument, apparently.

The battle begins with... wait, why am I controlling Gafgarion? This is a tutorial fight, all of these characters are supposed to act automatically except the main character!

Let's see what skills he knows...

...He knows a Holy Knight skill. It's listed under Dark Sword, but it's totally Agrias's attack. It can damage enemies in a 3x3 cross shaped area a couple tiles away, and sometimes inflict Stop.

He also has Charge +1 and Charge +3, which are just slower, more powerful normal attacks.

The basic effects of these skills are the same as normal, but they're sometimes stronger or weaker than they should be. Possibly other differences.

Apparently none of my characters are flagged as guests, so you guys can control all of them. Neat. Agrias has almost exactly the same skills as Gafgarion, just different Charge skills. She starts with way too much archer AP for her own good and already knows Charge +5.

This random wizard has holy knight skills also. And a sword, shield and helmet.

WTF, she doesn't even HAVE the holy knight job! I can't see what holy knight skills she knows until it's her turn. She does know Fire and Fire2.

Rad is a squire like normal, instead of being transformed into some weird job. The squire skills he knows are Dash and... Poison? Squires aren't supposed to learn Poison, though it's useless enough that it fits the job perfectly.

He somehow doesn't have the wizard job unlocked, despite it being his secondary command, so I can't see what black magic he knows. Mysteries abound.

Ramza LockeZ has Mighty Sword. This is getting ridiculous. I am looking forward to using Shellbust stab and Hellcry Punch on these stupid mimes. He also knows his basic shitty default squire skills: Dash, Throw Stone and Wish.

I also have a dragoon behind Gafgarion, named Alicia, whom you can't see because of the camera angle. She can Jump and use more of those stupid archer Charge skills. She... also has Faith status, somehow, even though no one's taken a turn yet. I guess dragoons have auto-faith now? Or maybe a piece of equipment is doing that? Faith status means that she does a ton of damage with magic but is also extremely vulnerable to magic. Since she can't actually use magic, I'm not thrilled about that.

Now awaiting commands from the RMN user base. Anyone who wants me to do anything: post your thing to do.

Hint-giving items in puzzle-heavy games

For almost all players of puzzle games, their enjoyment in a game comes from overcoming challenges. There's no satisfaction in getting past a puzzle if you didn't actually solve it. If there's no challenge, if the game solves its own puzzles while I watch, then I feel no sense of accomplishment.

However, I totally understand that some players are better at puzzles than others, and that it's frustrating, not fun, to get stuck for hours. Unlike other challenges, you can't practice until you get better, or grind until you get stronger, or retry until you get lucky. You just have to find the thing you missed. And so I understand why The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds included the hint goggles, an item that tells you how to solve any puzzle in the game.

But I still fucking hate those stupid hint goggles, and they ruin the game for me.

I'm fine with there being difficulty settings in a game, and I'm fine with those settings applying to puzzles as well as combat. But I'm not fine with designers removing all the challenge entirely for everyone - forcing everyone into easy mode. That's what the hint goggles do. If Nintendo would just let people choose between easy mode and hard mode when they start playing, and made hard mode apply to puzzles as well as combat, it would have worked so much better.

Functionally, the hint goggles work like a togglable easy mode setting. But the difference is they're not presented that way to the player. They're found in a treasure chest and equipped like the hookshot or boomerang. They're presented as a tool that's just as valid a way to solve puzzles as any other tool. And so, psychologically, it makes solving the puzzles with the hookshot or boomerang far less satisfying, because instead of feeling like you're good at the game, it feels like you're just not making use of the puzzle-solving tools you're given. It's like not using the shield or not picking up health refills - instead of feeling like you're beating a harder version of the game, it just feels like you're playing badly.

Someone was trying to explain to me that the hint goggles were perfect and that a difficulty setting would ruin the game for a variety of reasons that sounded like bullshit to me, but I'd love to hear an explanation of this viewpoint from someone capable of expressing their thoughts more coherently.

My counterpoint to him was that a difficulty setting can change any aspect of the game you can imagine, as long as that aspect makes the game more or less difficult. It doesn't have to just be numerical changes to combat, nor would that be appropriate for a game like Zelda where the combat is only a portion of the challenge. It would probably be appropriate for a game like Zelda to have multiple difficulty sliders - one for puzzles and one for combat - since many players only have trouble with one of the two. A "hard puzzle mode" that was togglable in the menu that disabled the hint goggles would not only be plausible but would be extremely appropriate for a puzzle game like Zelda or Portal, since the hint goggles do undeniably make all the puzzles easier. Normal mode could play like the game currently does, while easy mode also illuminates the next object that must be interacted with to solve the puzzle.

The player's mindset when choosing a difficulty setting is different than their mindset when choosing equipment and talent upgrades and assigning skill points. You feel like a better or smarter player if you become stronger through your choices in those aspects of gameplay, but you feel like a worse player if you become stronger by choosing a lower difficulty setting. There's no logical reason for this except for the way they're presented - picking the perfect stat build in Dragon Age is presented as a challenge to be overcome, while the difficulty setting isn't. The hint goggles in A Link Between Worlds aren't a puzzle to solve but they're also not a difficulty setting - they're somewhere in between. Finding the right place to use them isn't particularly challenging but it's still presented in a way that feels like exploration and discovery. As a result the player feels encouraged to use them to find the hidden hint ghosts, the same way they're encouraged to find the hidden squid babies.

The hint goggles are presented like a power-up, like a heart container or a bigger bomb bag, that players should be expected to use once they get. But while the game's combat is designed to still be challenging and satisfying even if the player finds the power-ups, the game's puzzles are designed with the assumption that the player isn't using the hint ghosts, and using them feels like skipping challenges instead of overcoming them. This bad feeling might be necessary for novice players, but should ideally be limited as much as possible.

Link Between Worlds charges you a "play coin" every time you use the hint goggles, which you get by carrying your 3DS around with you in sleep mode. 1 coin every 100 steps, up to 10 coins a day. The play coins end up being a joke since the player almost certainly will have more than enough to use the hint goggles on every single puzzle in the game, especially if they are a novice who plays slowly. To talk for a minute about a different situation, I think fixing this issue would actually make the game fun for novice players without affecting expert ones. If there were five or ten hint coins in the game and they were hidden in secret chests throughout Hyrule, that would actually be really cool. It would make the player feel like even when they got stuck and used the hint goggles, they still solved a puzzle to get past that point, it was just a different puzzle. Giving players that feeling of "I figured it out!" is super important - it's the one way that puzzle games provide fun. Allowing players to use the hint goggles in a way that felt satisfying instead of just neutral would be tremendously beneficial. This is what I think Nintendo was actually going for by making them be a usable tool in the game instead of a menu setting, but the infinite currency that's obtained by not playing zelda caused it to fall flat.

Sorry for the giant wall of text! I'm interested to hear what other people think about players having problems with puzzles and needing hints, other players having problems with hints and needing puzzles, and how you reconcile those needs.

Guys, if we're bringing everything out into the open, I also have a confession.

The account LockeZ is not a single person's account. It is actually a shared account used by multiple people. To be more precise, every single person in the US states of Missouri, Illinois and Indiana is LockeZ.

For about a week when the LockeZ account first opened in 2009 it was run by the gaming club at Fort Zumwalt High School, but the password was handed around freely to acquaintances of the club members, and its use spread rapidly. By the end of the second month every student in the school district had access to it along with many of their friends and families, and it had also begun spreading to neighboring schools and churches. The popularity continued to grow rapidly, and eventually it became something that was not just used by teenagers but also by adults and even small children. It has become a cultural rite in this part of America for everyone to log onto the account and act as LockeZ at least once a month. Most major posts are now the result of a crowdsourcing mechanism we've set up to handle the decisions of what to write and what to post, which has kept the account's "personality" about as stable as could possibly be expected.

Although there have been some attempts to prevent the further spread of the account, it is inevitable that it will continue to grow. It's projected that by summer or autumn of 2018, every English-speaking person in the United States will be LockeZ, and by 2022 this one identity will have assimilated the entire human race.

Melange Media

In this topic you combine the titles of two movies, television shows, or video games, and then write a short synopsis or excerpt from the also-combined plot. Make it good!

I will get you started.

The Princess Bride of Chucky

"As you wiiiiish!" shouted the murderous living doll, inhabited by the spirit of a serial killer, as he threw himself down a cliff at her whim. She had stitched him back together, and in any case, he'd merely inherited the doll's body; the real Charles Lee Ray had been retired 15 years and was living like a king in Patagonia.

The Last Fresh Prince of Bel-Airbender

Water. Earth. Fire. Air. My grandmother used to tell me stories about the old days, a time of peace when the Avatar kept balance between the Water Tribes, Earth Kingdom, Fire Nation, and Air Nomads. But that all changed when the Fire Nation attacked. I whistled for a cab, and when it came near, the license plate said FRESH and there were dice in the mirror. If anything I could say that this cab was blingin', but I thought "naw forget it, yo home to the Earth Kingdom!" I pulled up to the house about seven or eight and I yelled to the cabbie "yo homes smell ya later!" Looked at my kingdom, I was finally goin' at it. To settle my throne as the only Air Nomad.

Red Dawn of the Dead

In mid-western America, zombie paratroopers are attacking from the sky. A group of teenagers bands together to defend their town mall, and their country, from invading Soviet undead forces.