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Pacing new party members in an RPG

Discussion in 'Game Design' started by Zaladur, Sep 9, 2018.

  1. Zaladur

    Zaladur

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    Looking for some thoughts on how to approach the addition of party members in a tactical, story-driven rpg.

    For discussion purposes, I'll assume a total party of 8 members, 4 of which are selected to be used in combat. Let's also assume that the party members are somewhat unique.

    I think its safe to say that you players should have access to 4, even 5 characters, very early. How far into the game should it take for you to assemble the entire team of 8? If they are all provided too early, I fear that the gameplay could get stale late into the game. A new character is a great way to freshen up gameplay and offer the player new strategic choices. Its also a really great reward, giving the character a greater sense of achievement and progression than something like a new weapon or skill.

    At the same time, holding out on a character for too long can have downsides. If a player loves a particular archetype, and that character is not available for most of the game, that player might burn out early or get frustrated that they only have a handful of missions to use their favorite character on.

    Are there any other pros/cons for simply giving access to the full party early in the game, or on spreading the characters out across the entire game?
     
  2. BIGTIMEMASTER

    BIGTIMEMASTER

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    Brainstorm a range of possibilities, and play test each end of the spectrum.

    Anytime you can spend an hour speculating about something, it's probably worth play testing (assuming it's important to the game in the first place).
     
  3. neoshaman

    neoshaman

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    IMHO the rules of thumb is to introduce new element as far as 2/3rd of the game
    given that each elements need at least 3 gameplay beat (introduction, test, exploitation). The last third is spend creating new situation that combine and deepen the relation of all of them together. If you know how long is your game and how long is a beat, you have the load of your game and you can affect dedicated time to develop what's needed.

    Don't be like the team of andromeda who planned early to have 100 planets for a 40h games, that's less than 30mn per planet, which mean they are all throwaway. You need to develop and come back to elements, hence the third tier rule.
     
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  4. Zaladur

    Zaladur

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    This seems like a solid approach. My originally planned cutoff point was at about the 60% completion mark as far as new characters go, which fits the 2/3 rule fairly well. Thanks for your feedback.
     
  5. Emperor_Z

    Emperor_Z

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    In addition to the downsides you described, characters introduced later in the game suffer from having less time to develop and build player attachment than characters introduced earlier. In order to minimize this while getting the benefits of adding a character, I would suggest introducing the character early even if they don't become playable until much later.

    Alternatively, you could have a character undergo a sudden mechanical change, becoming a new character in many ways but retaining key aspects of their old version. Another character can potentially fill the niche that the character previously occupied, or the character could switch back and forth between their forms (though this has the downside of disallowing the player from using both at the same time).
     
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