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Author Topic: Creating characterization through battle  (Read 1241 times)
Pmayo
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« on: July 07, 2012, 05:25:41 PM »

Recently completing Final Fantasy 6 brought something to my attention. All of my favorite RPGs include characters that have unique abilities that those around them cannot learn. Lunar, Chrono Trigger, Earthbound, Final Fantasy 9, Secret of Mana, Persona 3, these are just a few other games that follow this same pattern that I also love. Yet when a game makes characters equally customizable, where everyone can learn the same things, I seem to lose interest easily, and these games rarely appeal to me. I could not finish Final Fantasy 12 because of this, it just felt so much blander (I hear the international version fixes this.) Blue Dragon was even worse, since the characters where terrible both in and out of battle.

The conclusion I came to is we spend so much time with these characters in battle that we almost learn more about their personalities there, then outside of it, and when each character is a copy of the other, we lose this connection. Often the stories outside of battle are told pretty terribly or are just way to convoluted to really develop any emotional attachment, but depending on how a character performs in battle we develop a positive or negative feeling towards a character regardless of the on going narrative.

I thought Final Fantasy 6 did this really well. Mog may have had only a few lines in the game, but in battle he was a goofy dancing moogle who many dances caused a bunch of strange spells. Umaro was some super strong uncontrollable beast, and he acted that way in battle. Even when a character basically sucked, that at least helped us developed some feeling towards them, even if it was negative.

So do people agree? disagree? Is there anyway to add even more to the story through battle? Any games I may not know about that does this very well?
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Der Jermeister
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« Reply #1 on: July 07, 2012, 05:39:22 PM »

The Shining Force GBA remake provides more story as incentive for using certain characters in battle, and in a game with a large playable cast, that's a definite appeal for changing up your party makeup often.
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Aeolus
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« Reply #2 on: July 07, 2012, 05:54:40 PM »

FFXII is kind of a bad example due to how many issues it had (also the International version didn't really fix things so much as it added an arbitrary limit to which of the 12 license boards you could use and improved the ratio of useful licenses versus the being able to put on a hat licenses somewhat).

FFs VII, VIII, and X however kinda bring up a different point that characters can receive individualized abilities (namely limit breaks and personal weapons) and still be mechanically identical. Actually, scratch those examples, what little characterization those games had wouldn't have benefited much from individualized skill sets due to how lifeless the casts in VIII & X were.

But yes, I do agree with this belief. DQVIII is a flawed, but otherwise excellent example of this. Each of your four party members have a given role but the game's skill point system allows you to build up an additional trait of that character which either led to abilities that supplemented that character's given strengths or shored up a weakness (if only the system wasn't so unforgiving and more informative).
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Pmayo
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« Reply #3 on: July 07, 2012, 06:26:04 PM »

FFXII is kind of a bad example due to how many issues it had (also the International version didn't really fix things so much as it added an arbitrary limit to which of the 12 license boards you could use and improved the ratio of useful licenses versus the being able to put on a hat licenses somewhat).

FFs VII, VIII, and X however kinda bring up a different point that characters can receive individualized abilities (namely limit breaks and personal weapons) and still be mechanically identical. Actually, scratch those examples, what little characterization those games had wouldn't have benefited much from individualized skill sets due to how lifeless the casts in VIII & X were.

But yes, I do agree with this belief. DQVIII is a flawed, but otherwise excellent example of this. Each of your four party members have a given role but the game's skill point system allows you to build up an additional trait of that character which either led to abilities that supplemented that character's given strengths or shored up a weakness (if only the system wasn't so unforgiving and more informative).



I forgot about Dragon quest 8. Great example, loved that game. And also agree with the fact that characters can have their individual abilities and traits, yet there can still be room to customize everyone with traits that can be shared. I guess one issue with final fantasy 6 is that the pool of spells that can be shared, where by and large way more powerful then any abilities that where unique to characters. the only one I can think of that I constantly used was Edgars tools. Yet I still found it fun to try everyones unique abilities, to see what wacky things you could do with them, so it was still entertaining and added character for me, even if it could definitely be improved.
« Last Edit: July 09, 2012, 06:53:11 AM by Pmayo » Logged

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Klyde Chroma
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« Reply #4 on: July 08, 2012, 09:54:34 PM »

I really enjoy a subtle mix of the two flavors in question here.... that is, I really don't like it when all characters have equal potential application in battle.... but by the same token I hate it even more when static potential of characters make them almost completely necessary, or at the very least an obviously superior choice to your favorite gambler with a lousy freakin' "slot" speciality (hehe, I ALWAYS had setzer relic-ed out to be atma-equipped personally.... he was just too cool not to.....)..... as such I found FF6's system, while highly flawed, still great because despite the fact that one of my favorite characters had one of the worst job exclusive skills there was, with the right equipment and some quality time spent with a few select espers he kicked ass... PLUS HE STILL HAD HIS LOUSY SKILL AND JOB which kept him totally in character and unique.... In other words he remained a gamble, just a bad ass gambler whose prowess with a sword was 2nd only to Cyans for me..... This is an example of a good system..... IMO

Another great system was sported in suikoden. True Runes, combo attacks and positioning stengths made each character feel unique enough in battle to be themselves and coax me into their use... while even if I really dug a character who logically was a weaker link, typically switching up runes (if possible), keeping their equipment capped, and sometimes including someone whose use allowed me to exploit a killer combo attack made them completely worthwhile. Naturally there were quite a few characters who were lost causes in suikoden... but come on, out of a 108 characters of course your gonna have some that are unbalanced to an unreasonable extent.....

I typically run into the problem of not feeling as though characters are unique when the complexity of customizing things gets so great, any unique character potential is really an afterthought... this happens more so with SRPGs than anything else for me.... For as much as I loved Growlanser HoW this was a prime example of that flaw.... Placing those skill and growth plates made it so, while stat potential may have varied character to character, there was really NO reason you couldn't simply choose from the lot of em and cast em as any roles you saw fit with little to no reason to select them other than whether you liked em or not.

Then again, sometimes I really just dig the straightforward progression of linear skill sets and spells such as with Lunar. Lunar (well at least the original Lunars.....) battles proved tough enough where they never felt redundant or under-demanding of my cognitive faculties despite the fact that no real strategy at all went into character growth. I like this for the reason the OP made the thread.... Jessica will always in my eyes be a odd-ball healer, because no matter what, she is in fact a healer and priestess even though you get the impression she could be wild enough to equip a pair of gauntlets and beat the piss out of kyle for being a jerk. Now if I had the freedom to in fact equip jessica with said gauntlets, boost her attack whilst neglected her given affinity for the healing arts and have a "warrior priestess-type" she would lose alot of what makes her personally so unique and memorable in my eyes.

Great observation by the original OP about how the application of characters in regard to gameplay does, in fact, impact how fleshed out, complete and memorable a character proves to be.
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Pmayo
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« Reply #5 on: July 09, 2012, 09:48:57 AM »

I really enjoy a subtle mix of the two flavors in question here.... that is, I really don't like it when all characters have equal potential application in battle.... but by the same token I hate it even more when static potential of characters make them almost completely necessary, or at the very least an obviously superior choice to your favorite gambler with a lousy freakin' "slot" speciality (hehe, I ALWAYS had setzer relic-ed out to be atma-equipped personally.... he was just too cool not to.....)..... as such I found FF6's system, while highly flawed, still great because despite the fact that one of my favorite characters had one of the worst job exclusive skills there was, with the right equipment and some quality time spent with a few select espers he kicked ass... PLUS HE STILL HAD HIS LOUSY SKILL AND JOB which kept him totally in character and unique.... In other words he remained a gamble, just a bad ass gambler whose prowess with a sword was 2nd only to Cyans for me..... This is an example of a good system..... IMO


I typically run into the problem of not feeling as though characters are unique when the complexity of customizing things gets so great, any unique character potential is really an afterthought... this happens more so with SRPGs than anything else for me.... For as much as I loved Growlanser HoW this was a prime example of that flaw.... Placing those skill and growth plates made it so, while stat potential may have varied character to character, there was really NO reason you couldn't simply choose from the lot of em and cast em as any roles you saw fit with little to no reason to select them other than whether you liked em or not.

Then again, sometimes I really just dig the straightforward progression of linear skill sets and spells such as with Lunar. Lunar (well at least the original Lunars.....) battles proved tough enough where they never felt redundant or under-demanding of my cognitive faculties despite the fact that no real strategy at all went into character growth. I like this for the reason the OP made the thread.... Jessica will always in my eyes be a odd-ball healer, because no matter what, she is in fact a healer and priestess even though you get the impression she could be wild enough to equip a pair of gauntlets and beat the piss out of kyle for being a jerk. Now if I had the freedom to in fact equip jessica with said gauntlets, boost her attack whilst neglected her given affinity for the healing arts and have a "warrior priestess-type" she would lose alot of what makes her personally so unique and memorable in my eyes.



haha ya i really liked Setzer as a character. I always thought they should have made the payoff on his slot machine skill a little more worth it. The royal flush thing barley did any damage for me. I ended up using that coin toss move he can get more.

Also very good point about Lunar. One of the reasons that game worked was that the boss battles are always appropriately difficult, making each characters role in battle even more important, and further defining who they where in the game world.
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Maxximum
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« Reply #6 on: July 09, 2012, 12:33:45 PM »

I dislike games where every character is just an empty bottle to pour stock skills into. I always liked the moment where I finally got that new party member (especially if it was one of those that was "teased" for a while before joining) and got to see whet he/she/it can do. This is one part of FFXII that didn't really click with me. What, someone joined my party? Great! Now be a dear and just hang around and talk in cutcenes, Its not like you can do anything my three custom characters can't anyway.
« Last Edit: July 09, 2012, 12:41:53 PM by Maxximum » Logged

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« Reply #7 on: July 09, 2012, 02:01:04 PM »

I dislike games where every character is just an empty bottle to pour stock skills into. I always liked the moment where I finally got that new party member (especially if it was one of those that was "teased" for a while before joining) and got to see whet he/she/it can do. This is one part of FFXII that didn't really click with me. What, someone joined my party? Great! Now be a dear and just hang around and talk in cutcenes, Its not like you can do anything my three custom characters can't anyway.

Customization in FFXII is deciding the ratio of dicks to vagina in your battle party.
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« Reply #8 on: July 09, 2012, 05:09:46 PM »

I think this editorial is appropo:   http://www.rpgfan.com/editorials/2007/09-03.html

Yeah, this discussion comes around every so often, and while I do like systems where characters have unique skills and growth relevant to who/what they are, I like when the overall system doesn't penalize me for using one more than another.  For example, I rarely used Sheena in Tales of Symphonia because with an oversaturation of melee characters in the party, there were better choices.  However, she was required for multiple boss battles and thankfully, the game leveled everyone up pretty evenly regardless of whether they were, or weren't, in the party so I never had to grind.  

I know that's a tangent, but a semi-relevant one.  
« Last Edit: July 09, 2012, 10:28:04 PM by Dincrest » Logged

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« Reply #9 on: July 09, 2012, 06:59:49 PM »

It's a shame that Sheena had a unique fighting style with her seals and pretty much all her specials were the same boring attack. She controls magic ninja cards with her mind and all they can think of is 'Horizontal slash'. I wonder if they thought they could be lazy with her because of summons. It's too bad she never gets to summon anything.
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« Reply #10 on: July 09, 2012, 10:27:33 PM »

Sheena is one of those characters who could've been really unique and interesting in battle (especially given her history of
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being part of a societally rejected people
) but fell short, especially in relation to all the other melee characters who were so much better.  Interesting how Symphonia was top-heavy on melee characters but had few mages.  

As an aside, my favorite storyline  moments were definitely the Sheena moments.  
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I thought it was funny during the unicorn scene how everyone assumed she wasn't a virgin due to her personality, but she really was.  I also enjoyed that whenever you chose Sheena as the girl Lloyd interacts with, their scenes were more fun and flirty than the boring Colette scenes.  And despite its anime tropey-ness I giggled at Sheena blushing at Lloyd's joke about marrying her to be part of the Mizuto culture.  

I'm partially reminded of Star Ocean 2 where every character was unique in their skills and battle styles, but some were more difficult to use than others.  I personally thought Noel was a confused mess, but some people really liked using him.  Noel was proof to me that a jack-of-all-trades character was a liability within the gameplay system. 
« Last Edit: July 09, 2012, 10:31:06 PM by Dincrest » Logged

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« Reply #11 on: July 09, 2012, 11:43:41 PM »

IIRC magic in Star Ocean games was typically useless outside of cheap heal spells, due to long casting times for the best spells which still couldn't compete against the melee fighters techs in either damage or utility. And of course SO3 took it a step further and made using MP detrimental since running out would kill you just like running out of HP would.

As for Sheema's lack of balance compared to other characters, I've noticed that having both Black and Summon magics in the same game is a recipe for unbalanced spell casting. You either have Summon spells that are too situational to use over regular spells or Summons just do it better like in FF games (sans VI (although IX at least had the foresight to gluing Summon magic to the healers rather than the black mage like IV did)).

As for the topic on hand, another example of characters with different yet fairly balanced abilities would be from DQIV. While the characters share similar roles between Beat Sticks, Heal Botting, and Magical Nukes there's enough variation that no one could do the exact thing the others could do but better yet using a favorite is doable without penalizing you for not taking a specific person along, but more importantly was that you were encouraged to use them all, going so far as to provide personal segments for these characters and letting you see what their motivation for adventuring was and why they're willing to join you. Also the AI in the NES version incidentally had a hand in characterizing the characters like Christo's infamous tendency to spam Beat/Defeat spells.
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Pmayo
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« Reply #12 on: July 10, 2012, 09:45:41 AM »

I think this editorial is appropo:   http://www.rpgfan.com/editorials/2007/09-03.html

Yeah, this discussion comes around every so often, and while I do like systems where characters have unique skills and growth relevant to who/what they are, I like when the overall system doesn't penalize me for using one more than another.  For example, I rarely used Sheena in Tales of Symphonia because with an oversaturation of melee characters in the party, there were better choices.  However, she was required for multiple boss battles and thankfully, the game leveled everyone up pretty evenly regardless of whether they were, or weren't, in the party so I never had to grind.  

I know that's a tangent, but a semi-relevant one.  


This is a good point. Games that don't level up the characters that are not in your party, actively encourages you to not use a variety of characters since your favorites will always be more powerful. FF 6 has this issue, yet it forces you to use so many different characters at different times, that it makes most of them at least semi important, while also giving you a taste of their differences.  Xenoblade rectifies this, by just leveling everyone up, even when they are not in your party, which works wonders with allowing you to use different party members for different situations.
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« Reply #13 on: July 10, 2012, 06:57:57 PM »

i love characterization through battle but i dont understand why they keep making final fantasy games where everyone can do everything. thats why i liked FFX everyone had defined roles.
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« Reply #14 on: July 11, 2012, 09:20:13 AM »

i love characterization through battle but i dont understand why they keep making final fantasy games where everyone can do everything. thats why i liked FFX everyone had defined roles.

At some point in the game, cant all characters learn the same things, and thus become interchangeable? I may be remembering that wrong though.

And about the Tales discussion earlier, this is what's great about unique characters, the fact that we can even talk about them like this. Even if not done totally right, they at least have enough character to spark conversation.
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