In this tutorial we will finish up creating our encounters, and create the sample games final boss: Morris the Fanatic cultist!
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Aspects of Encounter Balance
Despite what you might think, Encounter Balance is not all about difficulty. Difficulty is a portion, but there are many moving parts that you want to take into account when designing encounters.
So lets look at what I consider the important aspects
Duration: Duration is how long the encounter lasts. In general, with nonboss encounters, I prefer duration to stay low. Going into medium length in a nonboss encounter is ok, but make sure the time to reward (exp/gold) ration still stays good. No one wants to fight a battle and earn 5 xp and 4 gold when they could fight three in the same amount of time for 3 xp and 2 gold each.
Danger: Danger is the likelihood of the player losing an encounter. for nonboss encounters, this can range from low to high, depending on how you handle other aspects.
Toll: Toll is the amount of resources the battle will tend to exhuast. This includes HP, MP, potions, or any other expendable resource the player has. this can range from mid to almost non existant, depending on encounter style.
Strategy: Strategy is a level of how much good choices on the part of the player, such as party composition, equipment choices, and in battle skill use affects the Duration, Danger, and Toll of the encounter.
Swing: Swing is how much randomness, such as battle surprise, enemy skill usage, or enemy evasion, affects the Duration, Danger, and Toll of the encounter.
Now that we’ve gone over the five major aspects I use to balance encounters, let’s talk about how they work together. How they work together can create a cohesive feel for your game, as well as add even more variety to your encounters.
First, let’s look at two styles of gameplay that can illustrate how you can add a cohesive feel through balancing encounters properly. These two styles are by no means the only ones, but are a good representative of RPG designs.
The first style I will call attrition encounters. With attrition encounters, no single encounter is dangerous, but they instead add up over time.
This works well for games with save points, where the challenge isn’t from any single moment (outside perhaps boss battles), but instead from the extended challenge of making it from one save point to the next.
To compare let’s look at another style I’ll call immediate danger encounters. With immediate danger encounters every encounter has a chance to wipe you out.
This works well in games where you can save anywhere.
Both of these playstyles can be reinforced heavily by rating what the average encounter in each of the five encounter aspects.
Attritions requires fairly low ratings all around. But with a high enough toll to matter over time.
Immediate danger requires high danger and trivially low toll. You want to prevent to much swing when doing high danger encounters as it this can lead to player frustration. High strategy works well in this style as well.
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Need some more advice on encounter balancing? Don’t hesitate to comment in the section below.