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Number of Characters in an RPG

Discussion in 'Game Design' started by khanstruct, Apr 6, 2015.

  1. khanstruct

    khanstruct

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    This is kind of a two part question.

    I'm making a JRPG, and I'm currently writing up the story and character backgrounds. At the moment, my plan is to have 9 playable characters in the game (6 main characters, 1 optional, and 2 secret). At any given point in the game, you can have up to 3 characters in your immediate party.

    However, there is also a whole cast of "supporting characters". These are characters that are significant to the story and even help the player out during certain chapters. I could also easily make these characters playable.

    So my question(s) is this: How many playable characters do you prefer in a JRPG?

    Also, how many do you prefer to have in your party at once (and during combat)?

    Do you like a few characters that you can really get to know? Do you like a large cast for diversity? Do you prefer small, complimentary teams in combat, or large groups for maximum damage?

    Thanks!
     
  2. ensiferum888

    ensiferum888

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    My favorite JRPG ever is Final Fantasy 3 (6 if you're outside North America). You could have 4 characters in your party and there were 14 playable characters and almost all of them were amazing with unique abilities and rich back stories.

    My friend really loved Suikoden II in which there were 120 characters. I've never played it so I can't really comment.

    In my opinion, I don't really care for the quantity of characters. I care about the story in a JRPG game, if that story is enriched by a large cast so be it.

    As far as combat goes 3 seems fine if there are enough tactical options (FF7 was awesome with only 3 characters during a batlle). It also depends what kind of combat your going for, Final Fantasy and Valkyrie Profile have two very different takes on combat.

    I know I'm pretty vague but there's great value at both ends of the spectrum.
     
  3. RockoDyne

    RockoDyne

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    As many as will make the game interesting and ideally as few as will make the characters interesting. I'm mostly an advocate for smaller cast sizes. They should all be unique snowflakes that are given enough screen time to be studied in depth.
     
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  4. AndrewGrayGames

    AndrewGrayGames

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    In addition to @RockoDyne's statement, there's also the fact that each character by long-standing convention is mechanically different as well. So, another factor you should consider with the size of your cast is, does each member of the cast contribute tools to the party that are useful/necessary to the game? If there is a member who doesn't (Cait Sith, looking at you on this one) cut them.*

    *: Oh, cut the wanking. Yes, I know, "Cait Sith made the whole Keystone thing happen, and was necessary to get the Black Materia in the first place! And that was necessary to show how Cloud was losing control!" To me, that was by and far the weakest part of Final Fantasy VII. There's a hundred Cait Sith-free ways that could have happened that would have been more satisfactory.
     
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  5. wccrawford

    wccrawford

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    I'm pretty sure the Suikoden games only had 108 characters that you could recruit, and some of them were not characters you could take into combat.

    I don't know that I've ever thought about how many characters I like in a party. Smaller numbers generally means smaller battles, I think. But larger numbers can get a little unwieldy... Too many things to take care of.

    I think 3 is too few. If your characters specialize, it basically means you need 3 different things or you double up too much. With 5, you could have 2 of the same and still 3 others, so that's nicer. 6 is probably better for that, though. But that's getting to be too much to handle.

    I generally don't want to have to deal with the inventory for that many characters any more. I like to worry about the main character, and maybe some minor options on the others, and be done with it.

    So in the end, I generally want 1 character that I control fully, and about 4 that I have partial control over.
     
  6. khanstruct

    khanstruct

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    Great thoughts. Over the last few weeks I've studied FF3(6), FF7, Suikoden and ChronoTrigger extensively, as those have been a huge inspiration to me in making a JRPG.

    I'm working very hard to make the characters unique and relevant. While all of my supporting characters have their own unique stories, I think I'll stick with my main cast of 9. Still up in the air about how many will be in a party/combat though.
     
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  7. Gigiwoo

    Gigiwoo

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    What does science have to say? The Paradox of Choice argues that humans do poorly with too many choices. A rule of thumb: ~4 is the max before we begin to simplify, postpone decisions, and feel regret.

    And yet, we see from game developers that is really does depend. In Heroes Charge, your party has 5 characters, and there are a gazillion playables. However, you start with very few, and it takes weeks/months to acrue them and level them up. In WOW, on the other hand, you play 1 character, of 9 possible classes. EQ2 had 24 classes. In South-Park - the Stick of Truth, you pick one of 4 classes, and then add another party member. Which means, you have a party size of 2, where the extra character is sometimes changable, sometimes not. And, of course LoL has ~100 champs, except at the start, you really only have 10 to chose from. It's still pretty darn overwhelming. Plus, there's skyrim, with no classes, using only a series of dynamically allocated skills based on what you use in game.

    I like Wow, Heroes Charge, LoL, Skyrim, Stick of Truth, and a gazillion others. Though, as a rule, I vote for "LESS IS MORE".

    Gigi
     
  8. Gigiwoo

    Gigiwoo

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    Try a party size of two or maybe three - it'll be much easier to design and balance.
    Gigi
     
  9. pixelknight

    pixelknight

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    In general, speaking in terms of human-computer interaction, people in any audience react well with 3-5 choices initially. This gives the feeling like they really have a choice and not too many to become overwhelmed. It's also a fragile subject since people like many different types of stories in an RPG.

    All really depends on the gameplay too.. the more story-concentric things get in the game in general, the deeper the story-line the characters can support. With Dragon-Age the story got deeper and deeper as the player explored the backgrounds. Mass Effect, the player goes really deep into the supporting character's backgrounds which actually become part of the primary gameplay. The primary gameplay is more exploring the environment at run-time so the player gets story as they journey thru that environment.

    Let's contrast that with something like Pokemon or Blood Brothers which is more about recruiting the supporting characters as weapons. Many many possible characters to pickup and play with, but much less emotional attachment. The player goes from one encounter to the next in an effort to accumulate.

    A successful story matrix has a maximum of 4 layers going on at any one time. Storylines overlap and one layer concludes and starts another as the rest continue on.

    Let's now apply all that to having 9 possible playable characters. I'd let the player start with 3 and get to know them while letting the other future playable characters surface here and there to help the party along... then finally they join up one at a time after appearing a few times. Almost like watching a season of The Walking Dead. New characters show up all the time and interact. By the time the season ends some of the older ones and newer ones die off with the new party being formed and moving forward. Even some characters thought dead even resurface with a new story to explore. But everyone talks about the gritty endings.. with the player, they would literally be making the life and death decisions.

    On a tangent:
    One of my favorites was having a platoon of guys that you can name like in the old game X-Com. The guys that survived the most leveled up more, I started getting more and more attached and wished I could develop stories behind them. There were 3-5 guys which bubbled to the top, and in my imagination pretended they took on roles like Johnny Rico from Starship Troopers and other such nonsense.

    Another Favorite was the older game Eternal Darkness which went thru several playable characters. Player got to explore several chapters non-linearly of an epic story stretching thru generations. Each chapter had a new playable guy just long enough to start and conclude their part of the story. All thru the game I was often wondering how someone's story fit into the overarching story... Very enjoyable.
     
    Last edited: Apr 8, 2015
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