RM Skill: Skilled
This is my first post as a member of the RRR community, so I think it's only fair I give a little background info. I've been a game developer for several years now, working with such programs as Maya and the Torque and Unity game engines. The RPG Maker series was introduced to me a year ago, and I was immediately struck by it's flexibility and the amount of ground work actually laid out for developers, saving hours of coding and debugging, and allowing the developer to get on with the creative side of game creation.
So without further ado, I'll get on with the reason I started this thread. Many amateur developers start out with wonderful intentions of creating that special game they always dreamed of playing themselves, and to share that vision with their friends and such online communities as this. However, often through a combination of experience and hurried testing, they fail to strike a balance in gameplay, something I intend to address within this topic. In no way is this thread designed to poke fun at developers, but is intended as a practical resource for those who desire to create a highly playable game that keeps the player firmly gripped and challenged.
Firstly, getting the player into the swing of things. Your first battle is crucial in introducing the player to the "feel" of the game. Make sure it is believable and challenging, but without holding the player's hand throughout. The player should feel they have accomplished something, and leave them with a taste for more. Does the battle form part of the story? If so, what is it's intention, will the player win against overwhelming odds to save a town of people and become the hero that starts their journey, or will they be absolutely annihilated by a vastly superior foe, who they later swear revenge on to defeat? If your hero is a simple farmboy who has never left the town of their birth, why is it the case that they can enter battle and instinctively know how to swing a sword and fence like a pro? Unless this forms a crucial element of your story, guest characters become invaluable tools in preparing the player for the quest ahead. RPG VX provides outstanding tools for facilitating this, such as the uncontrollable battler option available in the character screen. If your game is more sandbox, without rigid storyline battles, when the player encounters random battles, are they too frequent, or not frequent enough? Can the player actually progress at a reasonable level without being bogged down, or worse, encounter enemies that are far too strong for them right from the start? There is little more frustrating than wanting to see what happens next, yet to be impeded by enemies that are unbeatable, or that are so strong you expend all your resources keeping your party alive. If massively difficult enemies are your thing, keep an area with weaker enemies aside so that the player can build up their squad, ready for the challenges ahead.
Boss battles are another tricky area. Bosses should not just be beefed up versions of regular enemies, but intriguing and entertaining, and at times brain-numbingly difficult. RPG Maker provides many condition based tools for facilitating this. Plan the battle before you introduce it to the game, think about how the player will approach it, will they have fought over miles of difficult terrain, against unrelenting foes, and likely be deficient in items, health and mana? If so, consider throwing them a line, an assisting character out of the blue, or an opponent that it is susceptible to status effects. Try and maintain a logical flow throughout, opponents should be intelligent and cunning, using curative spells when their HP is low, focusing their attacks on the weakest character, or the best attacker, forcing the player to actively try to keep the party alive. Keep a varied attack system, real enemies will have all manner of tricks up their sleeve, so using a large skill system with different priority settings will keep the battle engaging. Consider the type of battle, is it a hack and slash, where the party have to bring the enemy down as fast as possible to avoid being overwhelmed by the strength of the onslaught, or is it an endurance fight, where the objective is to stay alive against a foe with masses of health. The now legendary Weapons from the Final Fantasy series were a superb example of this, requiring careful planning and strategic accuracy to bring them down, as well as the conditions inherent to the battle- Emerald Weapon would unleash an attack called Air-Tam Storm, which would damage the party according to the Materia (magic inducing crystals for the uninitiated), sometimes killing the party outright. Such an attack lead to a wealth of choices for the player- to send the party into battle without magic, reducing the effectiveness of the attack to 0, but severely weakening their party, or setting the magics to respond to this attack, in healing and defence, allowing a fully equipped party to face this formidable foe. Such originality in programming sets a game apart from others, and makes for memorable experiences.
That's all for now, it is 1am after all, I may add to or amend this thread later, but I hope it helps.