Features: How do I choose?

in Tips and Tricks

One of the great things about the RPG Maker line is how customizable it is. Almost any feature you can think of can be implemented with events or scripts. And even if you don’t know how to script, you can find plenty of ready to use scripts written by some amazing coders over on our forums.

This can lead to brilliant things… and horrible things. One of the problems that newbies (and some veterans) have is trying to decide: What scripts/features should I include in my game? A lot of times this ends up with what is known as Script Bloat. They include everything they can think of, without thinking of how it works in the game. I’m going to propose 4 easy questions you can ask yourself to determine whether you really need that feature you are considering throwing in. I’ll also include a couple of examples from big name RPGs to illustrate my point.

1. What does this add fun to the game?

This is a really easy question to ask. What fun will players derive from this system. Let’s look at the Job system from Final Fantasy Tactics for this question:

Final Fantasy Tactics is a property of SquareEnix

So how does the Job system from Final Fantasy Tactics improve the fun for the players? A lot of players enjoy customizing characters and discovering their own combos.

What do I do if a feature adds no fun?

DON’T USE IT. Or at least, don’t use it as is. If you like the feature for other reasons, try to adjust it until you find the fun.

2. Does this hassle the player?

You don’t want a system that hassles the player. Instead of calling out any famous games, I’m going to just pick out a hassle that people in RM games seem to want to add in to their games: Weapon endurance.

In this theoretical system, weapons slowly degrade over time and have to be repaired or replaced. People seem to want to add this system in for “realism” but what does it really accomplish, other than hassling the player to have to repair or buy new weapons?

What do I do if a feature hassles the player?

Decide if its important enough in other areas to keep. Not every hassling feature is actually bad. Sometimes things that cause a bit of hassle are also REALLY fun. Just make sure it doesn’t turn into a hassle that adds nothing else to the game.

3. How does it interact with other features I’ve included in the game?

You want to keep your mind on all your features at once. How is the job system you are putting in going to interact with the weapon upgrade system you are putting in. Is it getting to complicated? Do they create 5 ways to all do the same thing?

Make sure that they all work together well, avoid bloat and avoid contradicting systems.

What do I do if a feature isn’t meshing well with other features?

There are several approaches. One is to find out which is less important and cut it. Another is to try to work them together closer to integrate them. Remember though, sometimes LESS IS MORE. Feature bloat can make a game too hard to play because there are just too many options. Especially if most of them accomplish similar tasks.

4. How does his contribute or tie into my story/world?

This is a big one, and one that most people don’t give enough thought to in my opinion.

Your gameplay should be informed by your story and world. For an example of this, let’s look at another SquareEnix game Final Fantasy VII, with the Materia system.

Final Fantasy VII is also a property of SquareEnix

At first glance, the materia system is just the same as the job system from Final Fantasy Tactics: A way to customize characters. Which it does do, but it does another thing as well. It reinforces the lore of the world.

Materia in Final Fantasy VII is condensed Mako, which is the lifestream, the power that gives life to all things on the planet. Its very flavorful to the setting, and is much more interesting than “generic magic item 3″.

What do I do if a feature isn’t working with the story/world?

Adjust it, fit the lore of the world around the feature, or find a way to alter the feature to fit into your existing lore. A lot of people get the idea that the story and lore are all that matter, but you are making a game. A game is only a game because of its gameplay. Making that gameplay reinforce your lore and story ENHANCES the story, your lore, and the game as a whole, so keep an eye out for this.

The Wrapup

Remember to keep in mind what you want from your game when you are adding features. Make sure they are fun, and well integrated with your story and each other. Also, avoid hassling your player unnecessarily.

Have any questions? Have some suggestions of your own? Pop in the comment section below and let us here them?

2 comments… add one

  • Julien Brightside July 19, 2012, 9:03 am

    A nice article about features, but I am just wondering if you could provide some examples? Perhaps some which are done well and some which are done badly.

  • amerk July 19, 2012, 2:15 pm

    Great read. I think too many people focus on the glamor, and not so much on the balance. I’ve come across way too many games that try to add in every script it can think of, in hopes of making that one unique game that will beat all others, only to have it fail because they either don’t know how scripts interact with other scripts, or they neglect the finer details (such as a balanced game play and decent story).

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