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?


LockeZ designs a boss battle for you

Science fact: If game design consisted of nothing but making bosses, and didn't include all that stupid stuff like graphics and programming and animation and level design, I would finish a lot more games.

I'm not going to claim to be any kind of expert - all I can claim is passion. And an abundance of free time to spend thinking about this stuff and wasting my days on game design forums, I guess. And two articles [1] [2] which you can read if you're intested and decide if you hate my style or not, maybe.

I'm talking about gameplay here, just to make that clear. How the boss plays, not how it looks or what its story is. A lot of you guys prefer to do different parts of game design though. I know there are a lot of people who mostly are trying to tell a story, or create an artistic experience, or build a world to explore, or something else and most of the combat gameplay they include is just whatever occurs to them; they care about the gameplay, but it's not where they want to spend their time. I feel you. Others of you are very interested in gameplay design, but might have a case of designer's block and could use a jumpstart for certain battle.

A few times I've seen people post topics or blogs or whatever specifically ask for help designing some interesting battles, and each time I was like "HECK YEAH, LET ME IN ON THAT." So I thought I'd invite more people to do that!

In lieu of joining a hundred people's teams I thought I'd just start a topic where dudes and dudettes can be like, "Hey, I want this boss to be climactic but I don't have any ideas on how to make it different without being annoying," or, "Players complain about this boss being unfair but I like the way it works and don't know how to change it without ruining it," or even just, "I have this idea and want a second opinion on how cool it is." Above all, it is just fun for me to design bosses, and it sounds even more fun to do it for a variety of different types of games.

What you need to post here if you want some boss design up in this bitch:
- Who or what the boss is, if you have decided that much
- Short summary of the player's party (like two sentences per party member probably) (if you have 150 party members or fully customizable characters, then tell me what are the main differences the player will look at to decide which characters/skills to take)
- Any key abilities the player has that you think are important in a boss fight or that make your game's battles unique
- Any ideas you think you would like to use, even if they suck
- Whatever you think is relevant

I will then probably ask a few more questions! But that'll give me an idea of what questions to ask.


I've gone on record as generally hating, in RPGs, when my abilities randomly fail or have very random effects. I usually don't use those abilities, even if they're extremely strong. Not just because they're useless, but also because they're not fun. I think most people don't use those abilities, unless they have to. And if they have to, and the ability fails, it sucks balls, because they had no control over their failure. When the player fails, it should be his or her own fault, not because the game rolled dice and decided to make you lose this time.

But, are there ways to do randomness right?

Let's look at enemy abilities. They're usually random. And even if they're actually a set algorithm instead of being random, they're unpredictable, because the player doesn't know the algorithm. This is basically the same end result as randomness: the player knows something's going to happen, but doesn't know what. No one (to my knowledge) has ever accused any RPGs of sucking because you don't know ahead of time everything the enemies are going to do, though. What's the difference here? Why is this kind of unpredictability okay, but it's a problem when the player casts Spell Roulette and causes a random magical effect?

Or as another example, critical hits. The difference between a critical hit and a regular hit is probably the same as the difference between a regular hit and a miss, but people cry out for games to remove miss chances. Critical hits cause problems in a few games, but usually they add fun to the game and no one minds them.

In one of my games, I have been working on classes and ability sets, and have been toying with randomness in a few of them, trying to come up with ways to make it work. Here are some of my ideas so far:

* A class that starts out extremely powerful but extremely random, but as the player uses the class, it gains new abilities that make it less random.
Goal: make the randomness feel like a problem that can be overcome, instead of one that can't.

-- Main ability: steal an extremely powerful combat item from the enemy and then toss it, dealing massive damage or providing party-wide healing/buffs. can only carry one item at a time, so if you steal an item you don't really need, you wasted a round.
-- First upgrade: a powerful ability on a long cooldown, giving you some predictable damage once in a while
-- Second upgrade: another powerful ability on a long cooldown, also restores MP
-- Third upgrade: you deal minor damage any time you try to steal
-- Fourth upgrade: your steal ability no longer has a chance to fail
-- Fifth upgrade: free extra damage after every ten steals

* A class that causes random effects to continue for several rounds, allowing you to respond to them.
Goal: Make the randomness be something you can build off of by using different abilities strategically. The rest of the battle is influenced meaningfully, and the player's response is "make use of what I got" instead of "keep trying the same thing until it randomly succeeds."

-- Main ability: start dancing and causing random effects. The dance continues for the whole battle. Effects include damage, healing, buffs, and ailments. You don't lose control of the character; you can use other abilities (from your secondary class) while you keep dancing.
-- At the minimum, this at least allows the party to decide to focus on healing because the dance caused damage this round, or vice-versa.
-- The player can choose different dances, which have different possible effects.
-- Many effects are very short duration buffs or ailments, allowing the player to exploit them by strategically choosing when to use the party's other abilities. For example, a buff that triples one party member's healing for one round, or a debuff that makes all enemies weak to fire for one round. This hopefully causes the player to sometimes consider using skills he'd never otherwise use, because they're briefly much better.

Do these ideas sound like they'd work? Do you guys have other ideas of how to make randomness fun and compelling instead of just a nuisance?

Tethical, a tactical RPG engine

A kickstarter just began for Tethical, a tactical RPG engine capable of making games with Final Fantasy Tactics style graphics. It has built-in support for both single-player and multi-player content. His talking in the video is unbearably slow, but the engine looks hella neat.

I don't know how realistic his $20k goal is, but I seriously seriously want to use this engine, so I hope he gets there. So, someone linked it to me, and I thought I'd post it here.

If Final Fantasy 7 had Final Fantasy 14's user interface

...it would look like this:

Write one paragraph of really bad erotic fanfiction about the person above you and a video game character

Because the "post an insane lie about the person above you" thread was so glorious, I decided to up the ante.

Warning, if this gets really vivid and sexy it will be locked. Thus why I specified BAD erotic fanfics. I challenge you to come up with characters and situations that are extremely horrible!

1) You're not really limited to one paragraph, but try to keep it as short as you can, in the spirit of the topic.

2) If you accidentally double-post in this thread, you have to edit your second post to follow the thread rules. That is to say, you have to write an erotic fanfic about yourself and a video game character.

3) If you just want to comment on someone else's story without contributing to the chain of smut, put your entire comment in hide tags. Fanfiction should be about the last person who posted fanfiction - ignore the hidden comment posts.

Oh yeah? Whaddya gonna do about it?

This topic is about making sure the player has a response to everything your enemies do. Because what's the point of a challenge that literally cannot be overcome? Even if that challenge is just a specific ability, and the game can be overcome even if you fail at overcoming that ability, shouldn't there be one or more "right" ways to respond to every threat?

I'll start with a slightly paraphrased excerpt from a boss design article I wrote:
author=Five points of designing a boss
In most RPGs, a lot of enemy damage is unavoidable - you're supposed to heal it, not avoid it. So the definition of "success" when responding to an ability needs to take that into account. What's success in this case? Surviving until the next ability? Taking less damage than you can recover? It depends on the game, the boss, and the ability, in truth. In a game where you can fully heal one character each round, you can be said to have succeeded if you survive the hit. In a game where your MP is extremely limited, you can be said to have succeeded if you minimized your MP costs. If a boss uses a skill to inflict a status ailment that makes you take triple damage from the next attack, you can be said to have succeeded if you cleanse the ailment before the next time you get attacked.

In that last example, taunting the boss to attack someone other than the ailed character can make the ailment easier to handle. In fact, taunting the boss to attack someone less vulnerable instead of someone more vulnerable is a common way of dealing with threats in any RPG that has tanking. This is why tanking has become popular in RPGs: it gives the player a response to most of the things enemies do, so they can feel like they succeeded. Tanking can easily be done wrong - it's extremely hard to make tanking an optional way of playing, for example - but when done right it lets the player respond to enemy abilities by partially nullifying them, which creates engaging gameplay with success and failure conditions, but doesn't get in the way of the standard RPG idea of unavoidable damage that must be healed (because you're still taking some damage).

If a skill has no way to respond to it, it's a bad skill. For example, randomly stunning the player for one round, with no way to avoid it. For a longer stun, healing it would feel like a successful response by the player. But for a one-round stun, even if you have a spell or item to remove the effect, removing it has almost the same effect as leaving it alone.

Status effects are a really common culprit for having no way to be countered. You give an enemy a way to prevent the player from acting, but you don't give the player a way to do anything about it. Or at least not a good way. Other slightly less serious but equally common problems are unpredictable big damage spells, enemy buffs that can't be prevented or dispelled, and other types of enemy power that can't responded to in any way other than "do what you were already doing, but with less margin of error." These sorts of enemy strategies aren't strictly bad, but they would be more fun if the player could feel like he "won" against them.

I'm interested to hear problems people have encountered with coming up with ways for their enemy skills to have counters. And I REALLY want to hear your cleverest methods of giving the player a way to respond. But if you just have a problem and not a clever solution: post it! We'll help you!

Here's an example from this week in my MUD, working with a co-developer who wanted to design a superboss. This is a Final Fantasy fan game, and he wanted to make the boss be based on Ruby Weapon.
<Developer> How should the whirlsand be handled? In FF7 it took a character out of the battle completely, but I'm thinking maybe it should be temporary and let you return after 30 seconds or so.
<Me> That's still 30 seconds of doing nothing. That's pretty lame.
<Developer> I like the idea, it makes the other characters have to temporarily change strategies to deal with different people's absences.
<Me> In FF7, that was what a character's absense did. The player changed how he used the other party members. But here, each character is controlled by a different player. You're taking a player out of the battle, and there's nothing he can do about it, either before or after the fact. He didn't do anything wrong and no one can do anything to fix it.
<Developer> What could he do? I don't want him helping in the fight, and I don't want it to be something you can be immune to.
<Me> Have him fight one of the boss's tentacles underground. Maybe if he kills it, he can return above ground?
<Developer> That's mean to healers. They'll never get to return. Maybe link its HP with the tentacles above ground?
<Me> Hmm, that'd work. That gives the above-ground party two things to do: take over the missing person's role, and kill the tentacles ASAP. Make the person underground deal double or triple damage, so he feels like escaping is largely his own doing. Even a healer's damage will feel meaningful if it's tripled. And then there's a "success!" moment for everyone when they escape and things revert to normal.


Gameplay tension is creating a state where the player has multiple objectives and can't do them all at once. It's what makes the player feel like he or she has meaningful choices to make.

For example, I have two magic spells here:
Thunderbolt - Deals 80 lightning damage. Makes the enemy take double lightning damage next round.
Engulf - Gradually deals 150 fire damage over the next four rounds.

You can immediately see the ~tension~ there. The choice is between immediate damage and gradual damage. Further, the situation changes as the battle goes on - the equation is different on the first round of battle than it is when Engulf wears off while the enemy is inflicted with debuff from Thunderbolt. Your choice is going to depend on the enemy's HP, and on how badly you need to heal, and what the enemy's strategy is, and what your party members are doing, and, if the game is designed well, probably a few dozen other factors.

There are a few major types of ~tension~ that work well, and I think these are probably the two biggest ones:
Short term vs. long term objectives
- Gradual damage vs. immediate damage
- Dealing damage vs. inflicting debuffs
- Casting protective buffs vs. healing after taking damage
- Choosing a stat that improves your performance vs. one that you will need to wear a certain piece of equipment later
- Killing an enemy vs. trying to steal from it
- Killing an enemy vs. gathering information (like elemental weaknesses)
- Winning fast vs. conserving items/MP/resources
- Upgrading equipment vs. saving money
- Using a class that has good abilities vs. using a class that can eventually learn great abilities

Offense vs. defense
- Healing spells vs. damage spells
- Killing an enemy to keep it from dealing damage vs. healing the damage it deals
- Using crippling status effects vs. ignoring them
- Choosing characters, classes, equipment or spells to use in battle
- Choosing characters, classes, equipment or spells to hire/buy/learn in the first place

Of course, simply having two options listed in the menu for the player to choose between doesn't create much tension. At least not good tension. You have to make them both tempting. You have to make them both seem like good ideas, in their own way. You have to make the player feel like neither just is the obvious winner. And then you have to create situations where one is better, and situations where the other is better - even though it seemed, to some extent, like they were both good - so that the choice actually matters.

Of course, the player becomes trained over the course of the game (sometimes very quickly) to recognize the patterns in your design and what factors cause one option to work better than the other. This decreases the level of tension, so the stakes have to be increased or the gameplay has to change to get that lovely feeling of ~tension~ back into your game that makes the player feel like he's actually doing something.

I wonder if people have examples of sets of skills or systems that work in tandem to create tension that they think worked really well. Or systems that they think worked very poorly and failed to create tension, and want ideas of how to improve. For example, choices between an ensured outcome and a possible better outcome - like an attack with half hitrate but double damage - never seem to create any degree of tension that I care about. I'd call that entire methodology a failure at creating tension. Though I suppose compulsive gamblers might disagree with me, or even have insights of how to improve that kind of choice.

The A is for African Prince

I am Kenton Anderson the only successor of late WIP whom was killed by the rebels that attacked our sovereign website of rpgmaker.net, and as of late have been diagnosed with terminal sickness. I have 15,000,000.00 (fifteen million) makerscore and I want you to assist me in distributing the points to charity organizations.

Before I became ill, I kept 15 Million makerscore in a long-term deposit account in Allied Bank PLC. Presently, I am in the hospital where I have been undergoing treatment for the oesophageal cancer and my doctors have told me that I have only a few months to live. It is my last wish to see this makerscore distributed to charity organizations. Because my moderators has plundered so much of my makerscore since my illness, I cannot live with the agony of entrusting this huge responsibility to any of them. Please, I beg you in the name of the Maker, to help me collect the 15 Million m and the interest accrued on the deposit from Allied Bank and distributes it amongst charity organizations.

Kindly expedite action and contact me via e-mail if this proposal is acceptable to you.

May the good Maker (VX Ace) bless you and your family.

Best Regards,
Mr Kenton Anderson

Post an insane lie about the person above you

Like it says on the tin.

There's no one above me, so the first person gets to post an insane lie about me! Exciting! Please come up with something horrifying!

Keeping the plot focused

There are games where everything you do has to do directly with your main goal.

For example, look at almost any game based on the original Star Wars trilogy. Every enemy you fight is either an Imperial soldier, a bounty hunter working for Imperial soldiers, an attack creature under the command of Imperial soldiers, or a robot or vehicle under the control of the Empire. And every time you fight them, it's because you're breaking into or out of some Imperial facility, or being chased because you just got done with breaking into or out of some Imperial facility, or protecting a Rebel base from Imperials that are trying to storm it. You are fighting the Empire, every single step of the entire game.

That's very common in action games, but extremely rare in RPGs, for some reason I can't quite figure out. It's also very common in movies and certain types of books.

There are many other games - and media of other types - where there are major parts of the story where your current goal only seems tangentially related to the primary goal, but is creating a framework and a buildup. In Chrono Trigger, when you go to 65 million BC the first time and get stranded, it feels like a filler dungeon. Especially since you're in the middle of a story arc involving fighting Magus in 600 AD. But, by spending an hour or two in 65 million BC, instead of just the 10 that you would need to spend if the game let you just grab the Dreamstone and immediately leave, the prehistoric setting is established and feels familiar when it becomes extremely important later (because Lavos falls from the sky).

But... even knowing that, it still feels like filler. Why? Because you're not fighting Magus? No, I don't think so. Taking a break from one major conflict to temporarily turn your attention to another one isn't filler. But what is filler is only addressing that conflict at the beginning and end of the dungeon, and not in what I'm doing in between. For a dungeon called the Reptite Lair, you'd think there would be more reptites in it, and that the five who were there would be doing something other than chilling out in the basement. You'd think Azala would have more than one bodyguard, that there would be reptite troops poised to attack the human village, that the gang of reptite thieves who invaded the village would appear throughout the dungeon or at least be mentioned ever agan. Instead, you're told "They went this way! Follow them!" and you fight your way through an hour of wild beasts (plus one easily avoidable battle against actual reptites) before arriving at the boss.

Combat is important, right? This is a video game: story and gameplay are inseperable, the story is told through the gameplay. Why am I effectively spending an hour doing something unrelated to the goal? And yeah, it's in the way of the goal, technically, so it's not totally unrelated; but it's related in about the same way as the fact that I need to get food every few hours and repair the hole that got torn in my clothes in that last battle. It's not telling any part of the story. It's irrelevant and should be skipped - or replaced with something that the player cares about.

And still other games, the worst type, don't even have nearly as much pretext as Chrono Trigger. Your entire explanation for fighting enemies in a given cave is "this cave is on your way to the next town." And the enemies are just wild animals, unrelated to your goal in any way. Why not just skip this, fade to black and cut ahead to the next scene, like anything else that didn't matter to the game would be skipped? Final Fantasy 6, for example, as much as I love it, has at least five dungeons that fall into this category: Mt. Koltz, Figaro Caves, the second trip through Figaro caves, the Serpent Trench, and Baron Falls. Not a shred of reason why any of them aren't just part of the world map, except to make the game longer. And practically all overworld sections in all RPGs fall into this category - though two non sequitor battles on an overworld is certainly vastly better than an entire dungeon of them.

Of course, there are situations in games where what you're doing just isn't part of the action. It's part of the build-up. That's fine! That's not getting in the way of keeping the gameplay focused on the conflict. What does get in the way, I feel strongly, is when you have action that isn't related to the story. Not all the parts of the story have to be action, but all the action has to be part of the story. And if not all of it, then maybe please at least most of it? Otherwise at some point I start to feel like the Empire isn't really what the game is even about. It's about bats and slimes.

What's your opinion on games that spend most of the game just having the player do whatever's on the way to their goal instead of actually fighting for their goal and taking part in the main conflict? Do you think this is all hogwash and story doesn't matter at all in games, and any excuse for battles is fine no matter how flimsy as long as it puts the player in fights? Do you think there are RPGs that successfully keep the player engaged in the main conflict, or where the issue exists but isn't problematic? I'd love to hear about those, and why you think they work when others don't.