Signal, Week 5 – Random Encounters

Last week I talked about some of the problems with RPGs in general.  I want to, within the next few weeks, touch on (lightly) some of the ideas I have to circumvent the problems of RPGs (to a point) while allowing for the structures to remain in place.  It’s about trying to promote fun in whichever way the player might like. 

One structure of RPGs I touched on was battling in RPGs, specifically ‘Random Encounters’.  The typical battle system of old-school RPGs is this: you wander around in an area – not every area, towns and such are usually off-limits for this – and every 100 steps, or 30 seconds, or 6000 frames, or whatever the timescale is, a different screen will open up and you’ll enter into a battle.  In other games, you will see your enemies wandering the area, and they may approach you or end up running into you, which would then begin a battle.  This isn’t really true ‘Random Encounter’ structure; in these cases you can avoid and sometimes even get the upper-hand on your opponents (or they can get the upper-hand on you!).  In these cases though, the enemies you run into outside of battle don’t always represent the actual enemies you face in battle.  For example – in Nintendo’s Earthbound, you may run into a strange, diamond shape object flying wildly around the field – then, when the battle starts, you’re actually fighting a set of robots and an alien.  In this way the encounter might still be somewhat random, but not in the way others like Final Fantasy function.

RPG Maker VX functions with the ‘Random Encounter’ model.  This (in my opinion) isn’t an inherent problem of the system, though some people don’t necessarily like random encounters as a gameplay mechanic.  I may be somewhat limited to this, but I have ideas to get around it (or give the option for players to avoid it).

First, there’s the obvious – managing encounter ‘rates’.  Random encounters typically occur at a certain rate – it’s usually variable, depending on how fast the characters are moving or the specific area the player is in.  Not managing this properly from the beginning can either A.) make the game tedious or annoying with random encounters every 20 seconds, or B.) not have encounters enough, leading to the players being badly underleveled by the time they reach bosses or other higher-level enemies.  Some games, like Square Enix’s Bravely Default, actually let the player decide – you can adjust the encounter rate from outside of battle at pretty much any time.  That’s a good concept.  Might be something to do there, and I’m researching how to do something similar.  However, I don’t necessarily think that’s the end-all solution – I think we can go further.

Secondly – what about changing to something other than Random Encounters?  Do something like Earthbound or other games where we see enemies on the game map.  That’s a possibility, though could be fairly intensive on my end of things.

Here’s an idea – what about mixing the two?  Perhaps some areas will have random encounters, others will have enemies in the overworld and no random encounters?

What if players just don’t want to worry about battles at all?

Personally, I think that’s missing out on part of what makes classic RPGs, but I could see it being the case.  Maybe they’re more about exploration and story and would rather not worry about battles?  Well, obviously the key battles and bosses would have to stay – especially the important story-related encounters that have to happen.  So if there aren’t any other battles, how can players have characters that are powerful enough to survive, let alone defeat such enemies?

This is tricky – it’s tough to find any classic RPGs that deal with this.  But I can think of at least one idea – something that newer RPGs, and even some older ones, do all the time these days.  Experience gained from other sources than battle.

Seems pretty obvious in retrospect.  Whether it’s hitting a certain story beat, reaching a new area, finding a specific item – sometimes RPGs will grant experience and power based not just on combat, but on other aspects of the game. 

So maybe we could have a mode that rather than being the typical, classic-JRPG fare, would encourage exploring and finding every single thing – not just because it’s fun to do, but because that’s what helps you actually make it through the game.

Like I said, it seems obvious in retrospect, huh?

Heck, maybe we can mix all three up.  Who knows?  Might be more ideas too. 

These are, as always, just my thoughts and how I’ve been working on this project for a while now. 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *