With no game profile to post this on, and a desire to gather commentary, why not post this here?


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can't make a bad game if you don't finish any games
Predication on skill, and application of available options. Power should be measured in options, not stats. Stats should serve to close off certain tactical options and open others (e.g. High ST, low MG), not to determine what you can or cannot kill.

Level should be a quick indicator of power, and by extension, options available. A team with diverse tools and several available strategies should experience total success, while a team with a single, focused strategy should experience issues with anything they aren't specifically countering.

Grinding, if desired by the player, should be to procure more of a consumable resource, rather than for permanent power. Grinding for HP against weaker mobs when equipped with a draining attack is acceptable, as is grinding for a specific trade material or to fill in a bestiary entry. Grinding for such things as levels should be acceptable to a point (e.g. to nab an incoming skill before the next boss), but not indefinitely. Therefore, EXP scaling shoud be extraordinarily harsh.

Enemy level should grow over time, even for members of the same species. It should be predicated on progress through the game, not on the player's level or other measure of power.

Convenience of names. A figure such as an item or skill should be identifiable from its name alone, given familiarty with the nomenclautre. This serves to makes battles easier to follow, and allows the flow of battle information to accelerate (and thus makes battles take less time).

"Poisonstrike," "Sleepstrike," and "Charmstrike;" not "Venomous," "Anasthetic," and "Bewitching."

"HP Plus," not "Surge of Strength."

Nonstandard names should indicate a nonstandard skill or item. Not that "nonstandard" should be infrequent, mind. Perhaps less so in items than in skills.

Predictable schedule, diverse execution. The player should be able to predict that there is a boss inbound, but should be surprised by what it's capable of. The player should know when they're about to enter a dungeon, but shouldn't be able to anticipate fully the dungeon's contents.

Thus, a player shouldn't ever feel cheated when the encounters step up their game, and shouldn't feel like they were blindsided by a boss. At the same time, a player should never feel bored because a boss is too familiar, or because a dungeon is repetitive and dull.

Variable, but familiar, battle setup. The angle and positioning of foes and allies have already been made to vary each encounter. The view should change as the action in a battle progresses, especially in longer fights. At the same time, this can never interfere with visibility and should even take steps to aid it (e.g. centering on casters or targets).

The battle HUD and menu interface should be fluid and intuitive. Rather than navigating to a skill under layers of submenus, any equipped action skills should be included in the main command window, directly under Attack.

Intelligent foes that learn, but can also be outsmarted. Foes should recognize a threatening attacker and take steps to shut down the threat via sleep, stun, elemental shields, offensive debuffs and defensive buffs, and any other available means. Powerful support characters (e.g. status inflictors) and healers should receive similiar treatment. Once threats are addressed, foes should assess each others' capabilities and form a plan of attack against the player. In short, foes should behave like a PC party played by another person.

In turn, the player should be encouraged to attack them as such. Overwhelming them with multiple attackers and disabling clutch teammates such as healers should be as effective for the player as it is for the enemy. Such factors as ailments should have the same effectiveness both ways, for simplicity.

Enemies' power should be determined primarily by how many relevant skills they know, just like with players. A troop with fewer members should have many more options per member than a larger troop. In this regard (diversity of each individual's skills), the PCs should be comparatively very powerful.

Maintain organic characterization. Personality should not be toggled on and off with the opening and closing of some message box.

A character should express themselves and their personality via everything from their dialogue and faces, way they walk and gesture, to their style of battle, to the locations and company they favor.

"> Move Char Left, > Move Char Left, > Move Char Left, > Move Char Left, > Message: FEAR ME, > Screen Flash (255/0/0)" is not acceptable.

Serve small and frequent helpings. No hour intros, no 340-message-box conversations. If a player is watching the game and they'd rather be playing, something is wrong. That said, ways to acquire additional plot or setting info should be made available and known to the player (e.g. a Logbook, or a particular NPC or set of NPCs).

Characters over events. Players should care less about the things that happen, and more about the people they happen to. The cast is the main source of perspective in the game, and the player shouldn't feel particularly alienated. Over the course of the game, each character should receive growth and depth, be it via scenes, battle quotes, or whatever.

Multiple concurrent arcs. The game should feel episodic, but it shouldn't. Story arcs should overlap, and at any given time the player should have at least two or three distinct development cycles in mind as they play, such that there is always at least one arc that interests the player. Arcs should interact but only rarely merge.

A logbook should be provided that lends the player reference to older scenes or plot points.

Integration with the experience. Only rarely and on a player-known schedule should the game stop the player and feed them plot or a scene. The player should know the schedule for these updates (e.g. "at the end of each day, I get some plot"). Beyond that, quotes and other venues should be used to convey the narrative.

Lots of frames of animation. Plenty of emotive poses, increased frames for running animations, interactions such as jumping down pits. Having characters run to an urgent location with actual running cycles is profoundly different from having them travel by the foot-shuffing three-frame default walk cycles.

Detailed only to a point, and easily reproducable. With lots of animation comes lots of workload, meaning some detail will be sacrificed for the sake of more frames. Strategic exclusion of specific details can be used to create a sense of visual style and to give a distinct atmostphere and feeling, rather than simply being sloppy and low-quality. This is something that will take a good deal of practice, but it will be worthwhile.

Fluid menus unbound by windows. Menus should be prettier than the typical "three-box cobble". Fluid transition from sub-menu to sub-menu and to and from the field is desirable, and adds a layer of (unobtrustive!) polish. This probably doesn't actually contribute to quality but your menus are boring you AREN'T REALLY LIVING.
Thoughts by section:

Gameplay Goals

Prediction on skill) I've always thought that Suikoden handled it best with scaling experience. If each level is out of some set number, like 1000, then it's easier to get a feel for how much experience is scaling and how much you're actually getting per level. "I'm gaining 95 experience and need 1000" is much simpler than "I'm gaining 3212 and need 34000," even if they're both eleven battles.

I dislike level systems. Primarily, they serve as a kind of psychological reward, providing a smaller progression marker than the larger scale of bosses and dungeons. On the other hand, you generally only notice your level when it's insufficient. While keeping a player motivated and engaged is important, this compromises your ability to offer the player a fair challenge. You make assumptions as to what resources the player has based upon their assumed level and what items you expect them to have picked up. If they're too high-level, they have more than you expect; if they're too low-level, then they have less. Levels allow you to be wrong. If you eliminate levels from consideration and tie player strength strictly to story progression, then you have a much better idea of what they'll have available at any given point.

Levels do allow players to grind past parts that aren't well-adjusted to player strength, but if that's the case, why not allow players a certain ability to 'dial up' their expected strength themselves? It accomplishes the same thing with less irritation. Ditto if a player wants to avoid being overleveled; there's no need to run from encounters if there's no permanent effect on your options. This also provides players the choice to "dial down" if they want, providing a natural difficulty setting. Dial-Up is easy, Dial-Down is Hard.

(I realize I'm in entirely the wrong genre if I'm complaining about something as fundamental as levels! I find it irritating regardless.)

Convenience of names) I'm not that familiar with the icon options in the ability menus (it's been ages since I've used an RPGMaker for anything other than playing), but it strikes me that if naming simplicity is your goal, it'd be easy to use standardized names and icons as a kind of keyword system. This icon means "fire elemental magic," this name means "second level of intensity." The result is Fire 2. Change the icon to "ice elemental magic" and you have Ice 2. Or reverse which part means effect and which means intensity; the idea is the same. Or make it so "fire elemental" and "magic attack" are separate parts of the icon, which sets you change the "magic attack" part to "magic shield" and get NulBlaze.

Less immediately intuitive, more ultimately intuitive. Or so the theory goes, anyway. You'd have to experiment with it.

Predictable schedule) This is why even games with "save everywhere" features should have save points or some close equivalent. Regardless of shape or what other options come attached to it, I've yet to find a clearer means of communicating that "something starts or ends here" than a save point.

Battle set-up) Movement is fine so long as it doesn't obscure information.

Intelligent foes) As a random observation: It's problematic when enemies start to focus fire. There are essentially two settings for focus fire: 1) too powerful (kills / irresolvably outstrips healing) and 2) insufficient (cannot kill / outstripped by healing). This is why "focus your fire and take them down one-by-one" is very, very rarely deviated from as a strategy. Meanwhile, forcing some degree of dispersal of enemy aim creates more of a "putting out fires" triage mentality, more prone to sudden unplanned events or exploitation of ill-preparedness.

Also, if "Run" works 100% of the time, I will like your game more. I hate unreliable Run commands. Sometimes I just don't want the fight right at that moment!

Narrative goals:
Organic characterization) Good.

Serve small and frequent helpings) If you're incorporating a logbook with scene replay, you could just have all scenes go to the logbook with a "new scene, view now?" notification. Mark some as more important, mark some as less, and have a "current objective" area in the menu for those that don't care about the story or want to read it later.

Characters over events) I'd say this is the wrong way of putting it. Rather, I'd say "events should be made to serve and drive characterization." It should be equally true the other way, though. The divide between the two should be a thin one.

Multiple arcs) Good. There should always be a single greater plot arc. If it's resolved, the story is over.

Integration with the experience) Good.

One thing I'd recommend for Narrative Goals: "Have a central theme." The story needs to be fundamentally about something, and that theme should play into it at multiple levels. It should be explored at a variety of depths, from shallow to deep, and through a variety of characters. In a sense, it's the thematic equivalent of the greater plot arc.

Aesthetic goals section is all good.

Random thoughts. Good luck with your project.
can't make a bad game if you don't finish any games
This particular game is further into development than you think it is, I think.

I'll pick this apart when I return, which should be in a day "or so".
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