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Author Topic: Pacing in RPG's  (Read 5009 times)
Akira
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jonnybfbi
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« on: February 05, 2010, 10:28:50 AM »

So I finished FFXIII back in early January and moved on to start three JRPG's simultaneously: Resonance of Fate on PS3, SMT Strange Journey on subway trips going away from my apartment, and Valkyria Chronicles 2 on return subway trips (yeah, it's a goofy system, but it works). And I noticed something that all three of those games have in common:

All of them use missions to break up the story and allow players to go at their own pace. Some missions are optional sidequests, while others advance the plot. All three games have a sort of home base where you can customize your team, set-up gear, save, and recover.

There are numerous idiosyncrasies for each title, of course: Resonance of Fate is all about fashion and customizing character outfits, Strange Journey is classic SMT demon fusions, and Valkyria Chronicles 2 is persona-esque with its school-sim elements and year-long schedule of classes and battles.

However it's a massive departure from FFXIII, which felt like being on a treadmill. The tacked-on missions allowed you to shuffle backward a bit on it, but basically the game just pushed you forward until the end.

So what are everyone's thoughts on how best to pace an RPG? Do you prefer more linear or more open experiences? What games have the best or worst structure?

My view: I really dig the mission structure. It feels like a happy medium between the do-whatever-the-fuck openness of Fallout 3 and the rails-shooter linearity of FFXIII. I can pick my priorities and just hop back into the plot whenever I feel like it, but the plot is always there, never vague, easy to continue if I want to cut the bullshit and just finish.
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« Reply #1 on: February 05, 2010, 10:34:49 AM »

Well, if you go to one extreme, with Bethesda, who basically allows the player to do whatever they want whenever they want, I find this far too overwhelming for me and tend to lose interest.

I can't think of the most linear game I've ever played, but I find that if a linear game has a story that draws me in, the freedom aspect doesn't matter as it's the story that you're there to see. Also, with a linear game you don't need to worry about "missing" sidequests or optional bosses, which helps with my gaming OCD.

I guess something like Dragon Age could be in the middle, you can basically explore at your own will even though there is a main quest without having the non-direction feel of say Oblivion. There is still a drive and a purpose without feeling constrained by the game.
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« Reply #2 on: February 05, 2010, 11:21:55 AM »

Mission based RPGs make we want to vomit.

*KH 358/2 I'm talking to you.*

Honestly, a Dragon Age system is pretty solid and FFXII was good there as well. Even Fallout can be ok.

But stuff like Crisis Core, KH 358/2, and the like, bore me to tears.

JP

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« Reply #3 on: February 05, 2010, 11:52:31 AM »

To me what's important is a balance between story, dialogue, exploration, combat, and other stuff.

A game can be good if it doesn't have one or more of them.

But open-world or mission based, it matters not. The balance of individual components is what does it for me.
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« Reply #4 on: February 05, 2010, 12:09:47 PM »

I think that the mission system is ideal for handhelds. I wouldn't want it any other way. As for home consoles, it depends a bit on the amount of attention I can devote to the game at the time. I'm guessing that with FFXIII I won't have a hard time picking up from where I left off even after several days without playing because the only way is forward. With some games I find myself in the middle of a desert and have to check whatever available data there is to remind me where the hell I was going.

I'm not gonna lie though, the last rpg I played was persona psp and I just about had it with huge labyrinths where every single wall looks the same and you can actually get completely lost. It's a lazy way of extending the duration of a game. You could make the player spend hours in the same place by just drawing a crazy labyrinth filled with dead ends rendered with a single texture and throwing in random battles every step of the way. Some of the longer dungeons broke the pace of the story for me not only because of their length but also because I would get bored of them and put the game down for several days at a time.

I think FFXIII's approach will allow the game to grab me by the balls and never let go and I really don't see the need to break the whole thing into small missions on a home consoles. There's no need to bring these limitations to these systems. Exploring fallout 3 was the most fascinating thing ever but the game really needs to grab my attention to be successful with this approach. If you don't feel compelled to explore it you will get bored really fast.

If you're going to allow the player to play the game at his own pace you better have an interesting game on your hands.
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« Reply #5 on: February 05, 2010, 02:05:39 PM »

I like the whole missions / quest log approach where I can hammer out the missions at my own pace.  That way it feels like the pacing is more on me than because of the game, so if things are going slow I'm more likely to look at it as something that I'm doing as opposed to the game having pacing issues.  Sometimes this may not even be the case, but it does have a bit of a psychological effect that can get me thinking that way.
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Akira
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jonnybfbi
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« Reply #6 on: February 05, 2010, 02:39:23 PM »

Definitely I think the mission structure works better with handhelds. I like having set goals that can be accomplished in under 30 minutes of play time. Console games generally make missions ONLY sidequests, like FFXII or Devil Summoner 2.FFX-2 did it well I thought, though I know that game rubbed a lot of people the wrong way. Resonance of Fate works because the three protagonists are sort of like mercenaries, so it makes sense that they're constantly taking odd jobs.
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Ryos
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« Reply #7 on: February 05, 2010, 03:49:07 PM »

It depends how the missions are handled.  Sometimes the game makes them interesting (I loved the optional stuff in Arc the Lad II and III because they were more or less vignettes that helped flesh out the characters), but for the most part I prefer optional content where I feel like going there just because and I can...kind of like most WRPGs.  While it's clearly easier from a developmental standpoint to simply go from point A to point B and have no deviation, unless I'm REALLY wrapped up in the plot, it's nice to have a little break now and then to do whatever I feel like rather than pursue the main goal.  That's probably one of the reasons why I liked Persona 3 and 4 as much as I did.  While they are as linear as a game can get, you still get to choose how you progress both in the dungeons and outside.

As long as the RPG doesn't throw in some kind of completely out of style mini game that serves only to be a temporary, frustrating roadblock (as much as I love the game, Anachronox did this time and again), I'm mostly down with whatever an RPG does, as long as it works well in the context of the game.
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« Reply #8 on: February 05, 2010, 05:00:24 PM »

To me what's important is a balance between story, dialogue, exploration, combat, and other stuff.

A game can be good if it doesn't have one or more of them.

But open-world or mission based, it matters not. The balance of individual components is what does it for me.

I don't need to say anything else. You won this thread, in my opinion.
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« Reply #9 on: February 05, 2010, 05:26:50 PM »

When I think of bad pacing, I think of Nostalgia.  That game managed to feel both rushed and draggy at the same time.  I explain how as best I can in my review.  

EDIT: When it comes to mission based gameplay, I think it's a good tactic for handhelds.  And if by picking and choosing from a roster of missions, the storyline branches out with multiple paths toward multiple endings, that would be nice.  I think if FF8 did that and depending on the missions Squall chose, perhaps some missions working with one political faction could be closed out because you align yourself with another one, it would've made the game more dynamic.  In terms of linear vs. non-linear, I like the Choose Your Own Adventure style happy medium. 

Of course, the mission-based mechanic in FFX-2 was pretty much meaningless.  
« Last Edit: February 05, 2010, 05:41:22 PM by Dincrest » Logged

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Aeolus
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« Reply #10 on: February 05, 2010, 05:27:56 PM »

Some games like FFTA's 1 & 2 have 300 missions but they're all identical which makes both games suck ass. On the other hand games like Legend of Mana and the SRT games are also mission based but there's enough variety between missions (in LoM's case) or there aren't arbitrary systems that bogs things down (SRT's intermissions forces you to only work with a handful of different units rather than shuffling classes, races, weapons, arbitrary locks, and a thousand abilities of which only 10 of them don't suck at most).

That said mission based games aren't all bad. Hell even the MMZ series operated that way and I consider it to be the best MM series (though to be fair, Legends would beat it if it had a goddamn conclusion).
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Der Jermeister
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« Reply #11 on: February 05, 2010, 05:52:38 PM »

I don't think mission-based gameplay lends itself very well to good storytelling, as it often makes the story feel disjointed.
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« Reply #12 on: February 05, 2010, 07:49:05 PM »

On the other hand, what if a mission-based game was presented kinda like how love adventures do it?  Basically, choices determine the path and each girl's storyline is like a mission and even within that "mission" choices can lead to good or bad consequences; kinda like how performance on a mission leads to one storyline branch over another.  And if you're on one path, you freeze another one out.  But, yes, the individual storylines can vary, though some like Phantom of Inferno have stellar storylines.  

I guess I just like the idea of linearity with choices, like a Choose Your Own Adventure book.  
« Last Edit: February 05, 2010, 07:54:48 PM by Dincrest » Logged

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Gen Eric Gui
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« Reply #13 on: February 05, 2010, 10:05:40 PM »

I've always hated branching story paths, because it makes me feel like I'm missing out on content.  Branching stories only work for me if the game is incredibly short, I am talking like 5 hours tops here.

As to the main topic, I'm going to go with most everyone here and say that Mission-based gameplay works a lot better with handheld games, especially ones like dungeon crawlers that are light on the story anyway.  I love curling up in front of the TV with my handhelds to grind out some missions in Etrian Odyssey or Class of Heroes while I watch Mythbuster reruns on TV.  But when it comes to console games, I like my games to be as linear as possible, so as to keep me motivated to plant my ass in that chair and keep playing.  Give me too many options or too many things to do and I tend to freeze up and not get anything done, which makes me less likely to ever play the game again.  I need to feel like I've accomplished something, and a lot of mission-based games just can't seem to get that right.
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« Reply #14 on: February 05, 2010, 10:29:08 PM »

From a programmatic standpoint, most RPGs are mission based. They just hide it.
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