Signal, Week 4 – Tropes, Tedium, and Classical [J]RPGs

I’ve never really been shy about the fact that Iravelon, particularly Shades of Resonance, is heavily influenced by the role playing games of the 90’s and early 2000’s.  I mentioned before a specific influence being Golden Sun, but I’m sure that more references would be (or already are) apparent whether I’m consciously aware of them or not. 

I would go as far as to say the fact that Iravelon is influenced by so many great games is one reason why Iravelon has gestated for so long.  I end up playing or at least learning about great games that have compelling characters, epic stories, wonderful music, innovative mechanics.  I find myself either looking back at my work and seeing how I can add something else unique to it – or fighting a growing sense of inadequacy in my own abilities or past efforts.

I tend to look at several aspects when I think of what I want Iravelon to be –

  • Classical, with a tone at least with some passing resemblance to RPG classics like Chrono Trigger, Final Fantasy VI, Golden Sun, Earthbound, and others.  I would only dream that my work would ever be considered anything near those heights – but if I can use some of their better aspects as guides and try to avoid some of their missteps, that will be something accomplished.
  • Innovative, to at least some degree.  RPG Maker VX, while limiting, does have a degree of flexibility if you use the tools at your disposal to their fullest.  Great user-made scripts broaden the scope of its premade structures, along with some systems that I have designed on my own to stretch the mechanics or add something new and – hopefully – surprising.
  • Engaging, with a thought-provoking and deep story, believable characters, and an intriguing world.  Tricky to have all three and get everything to line up properly, but I have a fair degree of confidence I can make it happen.  What I’m worried most about are making the characters interesting and the pacing steady.

Being a classical [mostly] classical RPG, Iravelon (Shades of Resonance specifically) has potential issues that come with the genre it emulates.  Limitations of the medium (talking RPG Maker specifically here more than the fact that it’s a ‘video game’) aren’t something I tend to worry about; those limitations actually shaped much of the game and even storyline all the way back when to when I first started developing the idea (back when it was one game and in RPGMaker XP).  What I’m trying to consider are the things that some people tend to dislike about the RPG genre itself. 

I’ll try to outline some of these below –

  • Overly-Lengthy Exposition or Dialogue, particularly when it’s unskippable.  Golden Sun was bad about this, especially in The Lost Ages and Dark Dawn, the two sequels.  I’m not certain exactly how to tackle this yet – I don’t want to skimp on the dialogue when appropriate, but I would rather not bore the player.  Part of this can be helped by decent writing, but most don’t want to be flitting through dialogue for minutes at a time when exploration, battles, and further story await.  I would rather not break any sense of flow or immersion, so the best way to present an option to skip organically in the dialogue might be best.  However, as with all of this list, it is somewhat of a side-effect of the genre.  It doesn’t bother everyone, though.


  • Monster Encounters, particularly when they’re incessant and random.  RPGs do this in different ways – most have the typical ‘random encounter’ mechanic, where enemies pop up without warning and you go into a battle screen from there.  Some, like Earthbound or Tales of Symphonia (or most other ‘Tales of’ games), have enemies visible in the world that you can try to avoid, pursue actively, or get an advantage on.  Some kindof do both depending on the situation.  Still trying to figure this out.  I’m planning on going more into that in a separate post later.


  • Cliché, in one form or another.  RPGs have typical clichés or tropes, going all the way back to some of my earlier examples.  You could likely count the two previous items as tropes, but we can go further than that.  Story tropes, like the hero’s call to action being the destruction of their hometown or death of their parents (let’s face it, that one goes beyond video games).  Or the hero losing their memory before the start of the game and starting not knowing everything (though everyone else knows what’s going on, surely).  The villain being a supposedly dead relative of the hero.  The villain being obtusely megalomaniacal and nonsensically evil to the point where they’re bland (thankfully not much of that in the best games.  Tropes go beyond just story beats though, and they’re not always bad.  Some of my favorite stories of the past 20 years actively engage these tropes, and either invest in them to a higher degree or twist the usage of tropes to distort the player’s expectations.  Funny enough, some of those “twists” have ended up being tropes themselves, like the villain being revealed to be just a pawn all along, or establishing seemingly important characters only for them to die shortly into the story.  Mechanical tropes can be subverted as well – Undertale being one of the prime examples of recent years, turning the nature of ‘random battles’ in RPGs into a criticism of both the genre and the player.

There are other aspects that can be considered ‘problems’ by some, and my goal here is balance – an attempt to be somewhat flexible with these aspects.  Not necessarily to completely avoid them, but to acknowledge them and find ways to mediate what frustrates some about the tedium of the genre while appealing to its best points – sidequests, hidden areas, secrets, random NPC conversations, items to interact with in the world, and a deeper knowledge and understanding of the lore of the world through all of this.

I’m sure I’ll swing back around to some specifics mentioned hear at one point or another, but for now I’ll leave you with that.


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