Grinding away

October 10, 2012 § Leave a comment

As part of my continual efforts to never finish a series I start, I figured I’d look at something a little different today.  I’ve talked about Boss Battles before, but I wanted to look at the other part of an RPG, that is, the grind.

While playing Final Fantasy 13-2 today, I came to a rather harsh realisation.  I’m not very good at Role Playing Games.  I mean, I’ve known this for a long time, I’ve never been bothered to optimise my statistics, to research things in detail, to go the distance.  Instead, I’m far more likely to simply look up “Best solution for X” in google, and hope that it answers me.  While struggling with a boss fight earlier, I looked it up, and was dismayed to find that the average person attempting it was 20 levels lower than me(It only really, shows levels for main characters in 10 level blocks(I think)), and that someone 10 levels below me had blitzed through the fight without thinking.  I, on the other hand, had been juggling my paradigm’s, and still failed miserably.  What does this say for me?  Well, it says that I’m bad at games, but damn good at grinding.  That said, I don’t enjoy it all that much.  As much fun as it is to mash “A” while thinking about the universe, I figured there had to be another way.

So, could we have a game that is all about boss fights, and eliminates the grind?  The quick answer is yes.  Look at Shadow of the Colossus.  That game is all boss fights.  However, it’s also not really an RPG.  Yes, there’s a health stat, and a climb-o-meter, but at the end of the day, it’s reliant on skill, analysis, and implementation.  While the analysis is important in an RPG, and in something like FFXIII, with its ATB, skill is sometimes important, the implementation, where you hit the right button, isn’t actually a challenge.  There are games which are less reliant on the grind, Dark Souls, for instance.  In Dark Souls, while you do advance the traits of your character, the majority of the skill gain is entirely internal.  You, as the player, become better at the game, while your character very slowly advances.  The only way to get through a skill limitation in Dark Souls is to optimise your grinding, and even then it will take a very long time to have a noticeable effect.  So while grinding is entirely possible in Dark Souls, it’s not really an efficient way of playing, and it will only have a marginal effect on how well you do.

But I wanted to design something different.  A game which involved stat based boss fights, where your skill could affect them, but where you had the opportunity to “level” yourself up between them.  My simple solution, combine two genres.

Now, I’m sure this isn’t an original idea.  I doubt I’ve ever had an original idea in my life.  But so far as I can think, I don’t know of any games that have done this in quite the way I’m envisioning.  So, if I’m stealing someone’s idea, I imagine it’s only by accident, or coincydink.  So let’s start with the boss fights.  They’re something classic, maybe traditional Final Fantasy style, maybe more like the newer ones, maybe more Dragon Questy, I don’t know, details are hard.  Before each fight you have the option to distribute stat points, equip items, buy things, all that jazz.  You get all this stuff in a store(including buying stat points using the currency), and deal with it appropriately.  I imagine if you fail the boss fight, you have the opportunity to retry with what you have, or to go back and redistribute everything.

But how do you get this currency/point system things?  Good question, as you’d imagine, you get given some for defeating a boss.  Maybe there are minor rewards for completing it in certain ways, or in a number of turns, or something like that.  This encourages people to play the RPG side well, and think through what they do.  In between the boss fights though, you need to get to the next boss, and for this examples sake, you do that in a puzzle platformer.  Designed something like “N” you’d run from point A to point B, collecting currency, and using skills.  The reason I use N as an example, is that it has the fascinating pay-off between collecting gold, and getting more time.  This keeps the levels short, fast, and makes you question whether doing something is worth it.  By improving your time/collection in the skill based game, you get the ability to improve your character further.  What this allows for is people who are good at one element of the game to still play it.  That is, if you’re good at the RPG side, you’re still rewarded, but you need less reward to be able to complete the “boss fight” elements, and all you need do is get from point A to point B in the platforming section(which should be relatively easy).  Whereas if you’re good at the platforming bit, you can win the boss fights, due to the extra points you’ve gotten through all your platformingness.

Of course, this means that if you’re bad at both, persistence is key(or maybe just failure), and if you’re a glowing golden god, the game will become really easy, but sometimes positive reinforcement is a good thing.  Can I say unequivocally that this game would work?  No.  But so long as it’s designed well, I’d certainly love to give it a go.

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