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New Dev Blog Post, Screenshots


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#1 Fire Blazer

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Posted 09 June 2015 - 05:46 PM

Hardly any news has been coming up so we don't have a dedicated news thread, and I'm in a rush, so have some quick copy/pastes so you can get the quick run-down of what came up on the topic of SMTxFE (or IR#FE in Japan)

 

Chief Director of SMTxFE/IR#FE made a developer blog post on the game, which Siliconera translated: http://www.siliconera.com/2015/06/09/shin-megami-tensei-x-fire-emblem-being-directed-by-radiant-historia-director/ 

 

Quick summary: he has played FE for a long time, was surprised by how the crossover turned out himself, and is bad at strategy games. The game is still in development and being visually improved even now, and more details should come soon.

 

You can find a dungeon comparison at https://twitter.com/...323863143981057

 

And finally, ATLUS shared a pretty cool screenshot IMO. I just like how colorful and vibrant it is, and the enemy design in this game doesn't seem bad either. I'm actually kind of excited and hope that the story is up to par, the characters aren't too generic, and everything just sort of meshes well together (and with minimal fan service...) because this seems like a game I might enjoy even WITHOUT the FE references/cameos/inspiration/whatever. The FE stuff just kind of seals the deal since I'd probably buy almost anything slapped with "Fire Emblem" on it, being the hopeless fanboy I am right now, lol.

 

CHEz9WuWoAArQ9p.jpg

 

Thoughts? Impressions? Comments, etc.? Do you think we'll see this at E3? I don't really expect to since it's a ways off for us and isn't even finished in Japan (localization will probably take a bit), but it's certainly possible. I mean, we got to see Xeno X multiple times too... it's not impossible. Anyhow, I'm excited! SO MUCH COLOR loool


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#2 JuneoftheMearkat

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Posted 09 June 2015 - 07:57 PM

Wow, I'm just psyched to know now that its being directed by the Radiant Historia guy (really like that game, and since it has a big emphasis on story continuity, I'm more confident that the story of SMT x Fire Emblem will be excellent). I'm a huge fan of both series (FE is a given, being here :P but I love SMT too, both the mainline series and the spinoffs), but I do wonder how they will blend the two universes.

 

SMT has always had a very "modern/urban" or post-apocalyptic aesthetic to it (though SMT4 diverted a bit from that) while FE is medieval/classical in nature. Also both series have large casts of characters, FE has a bigger roster overall due to the way the gameplay works (8 playable characters in persona 4 vs. 44 in Blazing Sword, lol). From the looks of it, they're taking the main characters from FE and focusing on them, but who knows if there will be any cameos. I REALLY hope they don't they turn the characters into your average "anime" stereotypes, with blatant pandering to the fanservice fanbase in every scene (freaking moe voice acting killing me X_X). I mean I love anime series (and I can't really find any other word for that "anime" stereotype label, sorry I hope you know what I mean) and I don't mind fanservice or sexy outfits (for goodness sake Awakening is the ULTIMATE shipping game), but not when it pervades the whole damn game for no reason, you know?

 

As for the looks of the game, It has a uniqueness going for it, and it doesn't seem like they're trying too hard to copy the style from one series over another. Bright colors are a plus for me (I don't like a lot of dreary looking games unless it fits with the tone) and the coliseum/fanfare arena appearance is cool :D.

 

I do question the character designs in battle. They kind of fall into the overly-complex and ridiculous mismash of "totally cool" outfits that I've started to dislike in games and anime (newer Final Fantasy games have this exact problem). LOOK AT WHAT THEY DID TO POOR BATMAN FFFFFF- http://oyster.ignimg..._FF-720x495.jpg

 

It's a bit hard to explain, but when you design a character, you want to put effort into making that design make sense for both their internal traits and the universe they're in. It's fine and all to want to make something look "cool", but there's a limit to how much detail you can add before your design becomes a confusing mess and the character loses their identity in all the fancy frills. Looking "cool" should not be the primary goal of a character design. Admittedly, Awakening did take a step up on the inherent complexity of its character designs (I didn't have a problem with this, the chara designer is the same one who did No More Heroes and I <3 the crazy designs of that game), but it still kept the same feel of "Fire Emblem". Other than maybe someone like Nowi -_-;, all the classes had a recognizable outfit to them that was practical for battle. Pegasus knights wear short skirts but they're lightly-armored fliers (and have always had that design), knights wear thick chunky armor, sages have robes, etc.

 

Same with persona and mainline SMT and Devil Survivor. In games with civilian teens/adults, they wear recognizable clothes that are attractive, but nothing unbelievable or gaudy. Mainline SMT in uses a lot of electric veins and gritty coloring to emphasize the desolate nature of demon worlds. The designs are sleek and clean without extra noise. While I can't say that I'm completely happy the designs have become more "common fantasy anime"-esque in FE (the older Blazing Sword/Sacred Stones/Path of Radiance designs were so good at being appealing and distinct, yet simple and subdued enough that they didn't detract from the serious subject matter of the games) I'm super satisfied with how Awakening turned out.

 

In these promotional vids I'm seeing a lot of blatant boobs hanging out (LOL sorry to point it out, but its true), man-midriffs, potential high school hijinks (urg...), and let's fight with the power of my heart ( :D:D:D), which I'm not so sure I'm excited to be associating with FE (less so for SMT, but even persona never went too far).

 

HOWEVER, even after ranting about that, I'm actually not as put off by the designs as I sound, just because of the way they are integrated into the battle arena. The way the arena is, it seems to attempt to evoke a very "over-the-top" battle, almost as if the characters are trying to show off while fighting as much as possible (they even look like idol singers!). I'm curious to know if there is going to be some kind of "style points" mechanic (maybe like Paper Mario Thousand Year Door, which also had an audience and stage you could impress with special moves, or Twewy with the popularity of brands) that will net you longer combos or whatever. It could mean the plot is about an otherwordly competition the characters choose/are forced to participate in (considering its a crossover, there may be some classic alternate universe shenanigans), which is not a bad setup. Also, Radiant Historia had a very well-done tone to its universe (depressing at times even), so I have faith in its director to keep things from being too pandery.

 

Darn it probably should have posted this in the is "SMT x FE to Anime for you?" thread XD....



#3 Mercurius

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Posted 09 June 2015 - 08:48 PM

The ridiculous "totally cool" outfits have always been more of a JRPG thing than an anime thing. The amount of drawing you have to do for the latter is far higher, after all.

 

Generally speaking most of the time "too much detail" is added it's really more of a problem of lack of harmony than too much detail in itself. This is because it's rare for there to be so much detail as to obscure what it's supposed to look like as a whole. I'm of the opinion that simplicity in itself is overrated, the only reason why those designs happen to be more "memorable" or "believable" is because human brains suck sometimes. It tends to be okay with works that are set in fantasy, but when I look at actual, real common clothes on modern, ordinary people in fictional works, my eyes constantly feel the need to ask my brain: "why the hell am I watching these losers?"

 

On that note I actually disagree with you on the Awakening thing. This is the game that gave us toilet cavaliers and rocket knights as the default for those classes. Those are simply outlandish without much style or complexity put into it. The artstyle also gives a somewhat cheaper impression of what they're wearing, as if the materials and craftsmanship was compromised. And don't even get me started on how stupid breast-molded armor looks. Additionally, Awakening's character designs are mostly determined by role with little personality involved. That's how FE usually is(although FE is usually better about having more variety even within the role), but it doesn't really say much about the character's personality most of the time. When it does, it has more to do with how fitting their class is for them than their character's unique design.

 

In the case "totally cool" outfits are the norm for their purpose (and in this case that would be "when magical transformation stuff and otherworldly matters happen") this does makes sense for the universe they are in, too. This aesthetic absolutely has its place, what if there's a character that specifically does want to be as extraordinary as possible? It would only be in-character for them to wear something that emphasizes their preference.


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#4 Fire Blazer

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Posted 09 June 2015 - 09:31 PM

oh my gosh so much text

 

will have to come back later

 

I just wanted to share that there's yet another dev blog post up, and with even more interesting details

 

http://nintendoevery...om-eiji-ishida/

 

every little tidbit I get makes me want this game more, even if it feels like a majority of the FE comm really doesn't want this/care for it, lol. SO COLORFUL, SO HYPE. this honestly looks more appealing to me than Persona to me since Persona isn't over-the-top and I like over-the-top

 

Persona will probably still win in most every other category though (except maybe music, no idea how this game's music is going to be except for Reincarnation)


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#5 Cero

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Posted 09 June 2015 - 09:45 PM

haha these developer interviews are pretty entertaining. 

 

I just have to say that there are just SO MANY COLORS. I want to see more.


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#6 JuneoftheMearkat

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Posted 10 June 2015 - 04:53 AM

The ridiculous "totally cool" outfits have always been more of a JRPG thing than an anime thing. The amount of drawing you have to do for the latter is far higher, after all.

 

Generally speaking most of the time "too much detail" is added it's really more of a problem of lack of harmony than too much detail in itself. This is because it's rare for there to be so much detail as to obscure what it's supposed to look like as a whole. I'm of the opinion that simplicity in itself is overrated, the only reason why those designs happen to be more "memorable" or "believable" is because human brains suck sometimes. It tends to be okay with works that are set in fantasy, but when I look at actual, real common clothes on modern, ordinary people in fictional works, my eyes constantly feel the need to ask my brain: "why the hell am I watching these losers?"

 

On that note I actually disagree with you on the Awakening thing. This is the game that gave us toilet cavaliers and rocket knights as the default for those classes. Those are simply outlandish without much style or complexity put into it. The artstyle also gives a somewhat cheaper impression of what they're wearing, as if the materials and craftsmanship was compromised. And don't even get me started on how stupid breast-molded armor looks. Additionally, Awakening's character designs are mostly determined by role with little personality involved. That's how FE usually is(although FE is usually better about having more variety even within the role), but it doesn't really say much about the character's personality most of the time. When it does, it has more to do with how fitting their class is for them than their character's unique design.

 

In the case "totally cool" outfits are the norm for their purpose (and in this case that would be "when magical transformation stuff and otherworldly matters happen") this does makes sense for the universe they are in, too. This aesthetic absolutely has its place, what if there's a character that specifically does want to be as extraordinary as possible? It would only be in-character for them to wear something that emphasizes their preference.

True, they are more a staple of many JRPG's, rather than an anime thing. I agree, simplicity isn't everything particularly when you want to make a strong impression, JRPG's are actually my most-played favorite genre, I actually dislike a lot of WRPG designs because they often veer too far in the other direction (boring, cliche and dreary, ALSO giving you little impression of a character or unique aspects of the universe, which I find even worse).

 

It's not so much that really over-the-top cool outfits have no place in anything, its more that they often are hastily thrown on a character without rhyme or reason and leave you with no lead into speculation of what the character or role they play in the universe could be like (gameplay-wise or story-wise) just at a glance. This goes back to the thing about harmony vs. detail distinction you mentioned. I suppose in this universe (which seems to be highly fantastical and character driven in how each playable person wants to be portrayed, it is persona inspired after all) it probably works, especially if they are trying to channel old heros in a modern setting (FE characters as known heros are thing for this, right?)

 

HAH! The toilet bowl cavaliers... Awakening does have its ups and downs, and chest moulded plates are dumb from a practicality standpoint (will crack right in half in real life, leaving a nice gash across the heart). I do see where you're coming from with how everything looks "cheaper" in construction; the designs from the older games had a lot of rougher texture to the folds and tears in cloth (and the grooves and imperfections of armor) that the newer ones lack. The Awakening designs in general have this "glossiness" to them that does make every outfit kind of look flat. There was also a noticeable rise in fanservicy attire (Pahn/Aversa/Tharja, shiver... Nowi...) that was more exaggerated than previous FE entries (take Sonia from Blazing Sword for example, she was designed to be sexy but since we only see her face and shoulders in portrait, it comes off as less in-your-face). The character appeal was pretty even-ended though (plenty of male and female service scenes plus the whole ship avatar with everyone aspect) and applied in places where it was plausible (Pahn is a beast woman and wouldn't care about armor/clothes, Tharja hails from a desert area and is a magic-user and the guys wear a similarly revealing outfit, etc.). Because FE is a game (and by extension this can apply to other games) it is a factor to consider the function of the outfit in terms of gameplay, rather than the character for sure.

 

However, the color theme, the expression the character is wearing in their art, their body language/pose; all these things can change the way the outfit comes off to the viewer. It definitely is an opinion driven thing, but I find there is a fine line between stylish and gaudy with fantasy character designs. For example, take the characters from some of the most popular entries in the tales series (Symphonia, Abyss, Vesperia), all done by Kosuke Fujishima. The designs in those series entries are certainly fantastical; lots of cloaks and gemstones, intricate symbols, bright colors, etc. Regardless though, there is a strong unity here; all of the outfits retain a similar construction of smooth lines, solid colors and similar symbology in the details (with a few hiccups, LUKE PULL DOWN YER SHIRT DATS RUDE). The ultra cleaness also goes well with the sleek magitech architecture of the environment.

We get a lot of contrast between the cast just by looking at them; Flynn is a silver encrusted blonde knight complete with a straight sword and shield, while his foil Yuri looks more like a clever vagabond/vigilante with wild hair and a katana. Zelos has coifed glossy hair and is usually half-sneering, wearing baggy pants and a pretty-boy vest that shows off his muscles. Sheena has a traditional looking ninja garb hinting at her speed oriented fighting style. Tear has long hair covering one eye and a darker color scheme, and appears cool and impassive as opposed to the cocky stance of Luke or the inquiring grin of Jade (paired with the glasses too, haha). Without any excessive assets hanging off every thread of clothing, we get a cast of characters in a clearly fantastical setting that look like they belong in the same place and get at least some idea of what they may be like (or what the creators want us to think they will be like, then deliberately surprise us, I'd cite 9 Hours, 9 Persons, 9 Doors/Virtue's Last Reward a my favorite examples of this trick). As you might guess, I find that to be a stepstone for good characterisation and story setup. There is nothing wrong with stepping out of the box and trying new things with design, but you need to find balance with the narrative and setting you have planned.

 

Now go back to the batman design I linked to in my last post X_X. What is the purpose of this? Why does he have so much mechanical mishmash when Batman is known for being a swift "strike without being seen" fighter? He's got a crotch plate that makes me giggle every time I see it, five different sets of blades on his wings and gangly arms sticking out the top (WUT). There just so much STUFF and you get little idea of why it is that way and how this design is meant to harken back to the original Batman. I understand that remakes can be different and creator interpretations vary, but it just seems so out of place regarding the superhero its meant to portray (other than maybe Batmans heavy use of gadgets). It just looks like it's trying WAY too hard to be edgy and unique and gets crushed under the weight of its own crazy complexity.

 

Urgh I'm itching to put so many examples, I have so much to say about both sides of this comparison XD, but I probs should quite now...

 

Going back to SMT x Fire Emblem, if I could point out anything that mars the visuals, I don't think the music of the trailer helps matters at all. It's just a rather generic sounding anime-opening pop song, decent enough but because this is a new series, leaves a vacuous impression. The biggest problem is that we don't know enough backstory yet to give accurate judgements on the elements presented here. Despite my gripes (more of an early critique, the discussion and differing opinions here are interesting to compare) I am still unbelievably psyched for this game (just the names of FE and SMT together would make me buy anything, honestly) and think it will turn out great as long as too many cooks on the development team don't spoil the stew. I mean if something like Kingdom Hearts can exist, which is essentially Disney mixed with Final Fantasy smacked together and turn out like it did (disregarding that plot, my head is swimming just thinking about it), then this combination isn't a huge leap at all.



#7 Cero

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Posted 10 June 2015 - 05:15 AM

At least the song translation is not a bubbly as the song sounds lol.


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#8 JuneoftheMearkat

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Posted 10 June 2015 - 05:22 AM

Holy crap I didn't think of checking that out. Just looked up the lyrics now that you mentioned that and they're pretty dark, man. Though thats to be expected for a Megaten series game. I'm sure they've got something up their sleeve about the details they're giving to the fanbase.



#9 Mercurius

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Posted 10 June 2015 - 03:41 PM

True, they are more a staple of many JRPG's, rather than an anime thing. I agree, simplicity isn't everything particularly when you want to make a strong impression, JRPG's are actually my most-played favorite genre, I actually dislike a lot of WRPG designs because they often veer too far in the other direction (boring, cliche and dreary, ALSO giving you little impression of a character or unique aspects of the universe, which I find even worse).

(Before you read this, do note that I'm not trying to challenge your stance. I just want to continue the discussion, regardless of how much potential agreement, and thus redundant information we end up with.)

 

The reason for this is largely for the sake of marketing. Being boring, cliche, and dreary may not present anything unique about the universe, but it is entirely capable of adding to "immersion" (whatever that means) because of how well it fits into the worlds that genre intend on presenting you, something that seems to be significantly more valuable to Western gamers than Eastern ones going by their usual products. Take, for example, the Daedric armor from Skyrim:

http://img4.wikia.no...or_(Skyrim).jpg

 

Dark, yet metallic. Glowy red bits. Unnecessary spikes. Asymmetry. Far more bulky than what humans could practically wear. It's designed in a way somewhat like the Tetsuya Nomura Batman image you've presented. However, this armor is specifically designed to be worn by Daedra/Dremora, which are basically demons from Mordor-land. They don't even show up in Skyrim outside of when they are specifically summoned via magic. And you even need to use the hearts of said Daedra as some of the materials for creating this armor, which has better defense ratings than almost everything else in the game. All the traits this thing has are very deliberate and make lots of sense when you consider that the ones usually wearing and manufacturing it have to do so with the materials available in Mordor-land for Mordor-land species.

 

This does not stop said armor design being derided as "being for edgy emo 13 year olds" with how they prefer the much more "immersive" and implied to be "for adults" armor sets like...iron armor. I shouldn't even need to link you an image for how generic that sounds. Why is the armor design derided when it fits the demonic aesthetic it's supposed to have? Most likely because the people viewing it have to deal with wearing it if they want to optimize their stats(which you really don't have to do in Skyrim since it's not at all a very difficult game but optimization of stats will happen no matter what the consequences are for choosing not to) and feel offended by how it ruins the experience for them. However, in any case, the armor does give off the image of being powerful and threatening, so it wouldn't make much intuitive sense to make its stats lackluster either.

 

So what should the marketers think? Since the job of WRPGs is largely for the sake of maximizing "immersion", and because that is easier to achieve by making the available equipment more "realistic" to enhance how relatable the player character(and the world) would likely be to the player, it would be in their best interests to avoid either making that something you can obtain(which is always annoying because we like to feel like we have access to what a game has to offer) or not include such fanciful things in the first place, which leads to limiting the freedom of what the worlds can offer you in order to pander to the usual customers for these products. Granted, I don't think Skyrim is actually a good example in itself since it has plenty of silly things in it, but it is something that makes the expected audience for these kinds of games complain.

 

The modern Japanese/Korean/Chinese marketers (with the latter two being largely influenced by the first one's conventions) however place very little value on this "immersion" which is why they are much more likely to present more unconventional character and world design in their products. Instead, they tend to focus on "flash", and to some level, emphasize what would be fun based on a child's idea of what is interesting. This can either result in worlds that have characters like the Tales characters that you mentioned or it can result in them going overboard(like the Batman) depending on what they feel like aiming for. It's not really as set in stone because the nature of this marketing logic brings somewhat more freedom/flexibility into the design process, and unique features can be granted to the characters because of this freedom. (On the other hand they can also be lazy assholes and just stick everyone in a high school uniform. That's when a setting's logical conclusion for character design pisses me off the most. Especially when they turn out to be BORING uniforms.)

 

Even within the examples of Tales characters that you presented, there is something that seems a bit off going by the limited information that you have provided me: Yuri uses a katana. "like a clever vagabond/vigilante with wild hair and..." Even if he is supposed to be the design foil to "Western proper knight dude with straight sword and shield" the katana seems kind of out of place from the surface impression, detracting from a role. However Yuri could have a specific background that leads to him having and being comfortable with katanas, adding to individuality. I'm not sure how common katanas are supposed to be in said universe (I mean JRPGs love adding a little Japan to their settings no matter what) but normal design logic might instead give him something like a pair of shortswords or a bow or something. Instead, the "normal design logic" is defied for something more specific.

 

It is my personal opinion that Awakening generally used the extreme of this Japanese marketing logic, which makes some level of sense given the dire situation of the developers at the time(since Fire Emblem was not selling well without modernization.) The character designer was also not in charge of the clothes any of the characters wear aside from head ornaments. What they wanted in such a situation would be publicity, which can be gained via novelty. As a result a lot of Awakening's designs are somewhat surreal and aimed more for instant stimulation(via fanservice or just being weird) rather than sticking to tasteful limits or being something that the characters would wear by choice. It's like pornography, it wants to provoke the customer fast, even if it's at the cost of characterization.

 

tl;dr, marketing poisons design.

 

It definitely is an opinion driven thing, but I find there is a fine line between stylish and gaudy with fantasy character designs.

I feel like I'm generally a lot more welcoming of flamboyance in design due to my background. I felt like the world was complete shit as a little kid (we're talking single digit age here) because everything in the real world looked so painfully boring, with fantasy videogames being my only refuge. I thought less of fellow students than I did of unimportant NPCs in traditional JRPG towns because their sense of fashion was so mind-numbingly boring I could only grant them the status of background extras. They were like faceless soldiers that you murder in droves in Dynasty Warriors but worse. And the absolute worst part was that I had to wear things like them too, reinforcing just how worthless everything felt.

 

Then I met someone who actually wears significantly interesting (but still modern) clothes, which pretty much changed everything. (I don't got FAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAABULOUS-ness in my interests for no reason.)

 

This also lead to me getting majorly pissed off whenever I go into stores that sell products from high quality brands that fail to inspire any interest whatsoever via special design though. "What in the fuck about this leather jacket that doesn't look any different from other leather jackets warrants paying $6,000 for it? It doesn't even fit better than the one I got for $170!" All those people who have no fashion desires of their own and instead only want the social benefits something would bring (such as whatever celebrities are rocking at the moment) don't get any of my respect either.

 

"Does this look good on me?"

"How do you think it looks on you?"

"Ugh, I asked for a reason!"

"Spare your money the fate of being squandered on what you don't even want. Oh, and you can carry your own bags."

Going back to SMT x Fire Emblem, if I could point out anything that mars the visuals, I don't think the music of the trailer helps matters at all. It's just a rather generic sounding anime-opening pop song, decent enough but because this is a new series, leaves a vacuous impression.

As overused as generic anime opening J-Pop songs are, is there anything better for advertising a setting that makes use of "totally cool" design + high school + idols?


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#10 JuneoftheMearkat

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Posted 10 June 2015 - 09:13 PM

(Before you read this, do note that I'm not trying to challenge your stance. I just want to continue the discussion, regardless of how much potential agreement, and thus redundant information we end up with.)

No worries, there's nothing wrong with challenging things posted here, I'm definitely not going to be offended haha. Agreement isn't necessarily the goal; I think we're trying to lay out all explanations on the table then elaborate from there.

 

The reason for this is largely for the sake of marketing. Being boring, cliche, and dreary may not present anything unique about the universe, but it is entirely capable of adding to "immersion" (whatever that means) because of how well it fits into the worlds that genre intend on presenting you, something that seems to be significantly more valuable to Western gamers than Eastern ones going by their usual products.

THIS. The immersion argument (at least when its used as a point of superiority, rather than just a benign comparison) has always sounded so vague to me. I suppose it doesn't help that I tend to be drawn to games where the characters are predetermined in some manner; I don't play games to be some super amazing mega god who solves everyone in the virtual universe's problems, I play to see how the characters and the world interact and how I can overcome obstacles with what those characters are capable of. I want well-defined characters to fantasize and create fan theories about dammit! Haha that's an exaggeration there, customization is an awesome tool and wanting to be immersed in a game universe to the point that you are the actual protagonist is a legitimate preference, but the lack of world-building effort for the sake of streamlined marketing appeal is a downer. If there's someone who cares nothing for narrative or style in games and wants all the other aspects, then by all means they can voice that preference (and theres plenty of those people), but I'm not one of them :/.

 

Now that I think about it, the need for genericized marketing oriented designs kinda relates to the frequent "defaulting" to average photorealism (as opposed to pseudo-realism with plenty of distinct elements, like in Dark Souls or Mass Effect) for the human/race design in those types of rpgs. Yes I'm gonna diss photorealism right now and say that a stylistic approach usually reigns triumphant in the end when it comes to memorability. Photorealism does not age well! What games become iconic 5-15 years in the future? Games with their own style. Series like COD and Madden have merely become household names because of how massively popular sellers they are; no one plays them for the characters, narrative, or recognizable visual style and game mechanics. They get replaced with the newest version every year or so. When you have entries in a series, its a boon to make every one stand out on its own, even if the mechanics do get updated or revamped in future installments. People will still remember them as their own individual entry, rather than a faulty prototype for the next shiny version. Not to mention the massive technical and labor costs of photorealistic level graphics, which can detract from amassing resources to the actual gameplay or pacing (you know, the things games are generally made for?). Not to say that developers should sacrifice substance for style, but there are at least some advantages to trying out a new visual/writing approach.

 

This does not stop said armor design being derided as "being for edgy emo 13 year olds" with how they prefer the much more "immersive" and implied to be "for adults" armor sets like...iron armor. I shouldn't even need to link you an image for how generic that sounds.

 

One of the roots of these debates, sigh... -_-. Realism appeals to a certain demographic for sure while things outside that can often get derided as childish, which is too bad, be it an opinion.

 

Even within the examples of Tales characters that you presented, there is something that seems a bit off going by the limited information that you have provided me: Yuri uses a katana. "like a clever vagabond/vigilante with wild hair and..." Even if he is supposed to be the design foil to "Western proper knight dude with straight sword and shield" the katana seems kind of out of place from the surface impression, detracting from a role. However Yuri could have a specific background that leads to him having and being comfortable with katanas, adding to individuality. I'm not sure how common katanas are supposed to be in said universe (I mean JRPGs love adding a little Japan to their settings no matter what) but normal design logic might instead give him something like a pair of shortswords or a bow or something.

I should have posted pics, I went on a limb assuming most people here have played or at least of heard of these series, but that was a selfish assumption XD (and I was worried to post would be too long). I was the quickest example off the top of my head as I was trying to pinpoint "designs that are noticeably downplayed, but still fantastical". I'm not sure if the starting sword Yuri uses is actually a "katana" in universe, thats just the type of design it most resembles (and I can't remember the real name they gave it).

 

It think my urge to zone in and critique the designs of SMT x FE is also coming from the release of the Persona 5 trailer, since they are generally by the same company (not the same producers though). I will admit right now I'm horribly biased and LOVE the character direction I've seen so far from Persona 5.

 

 

We only have 3 mains shown so far not counting the little cat guy (I like the downsize in party, it gives an incentive for a huge amount of individual development for each one, and a more interpersonally involved protag). Their alter-ego costumes all have references you can spot to classic characters that are known for being tricksters/mysterious and not fitting in with "societal norms" (the overarching theme of this entry); The protagonists starting persona has a reference to Lupin III according to the creators, and he's wearing a mask much like something out of Phantom of the Opera or a masquerade (all the characters wear masks but the combo with the black longcoat makes the protags outfit really sell it). The blonde girl has an obvious outfit like Catwoman (not sure why she spins like a figure skater on the roads though XD?). The shaggy looking guy friend of theirs was probably the hardest to get, but when you see the face-closeups for the all out attack, you can see him grinning like the Joker (which explains the flashy jacket and scarf/tie thing). Theres also more inspirations in there I probably missed. The interface has a high contrast with thick outlines and looks like a comic book to match the team here.

 

The thing is though, Persona 5 has a template to work off of; there are previous entries in its series that have already been heavily established, while SMT x Fire Emblem is a new ip and has to find footing on its own. So its not really fair to compare the two necessarily :/.

 

 

This also lead to me getting majorly pissed off whenever I go into stores that sell products from high quality brands that fail to inspire any interest whatsoever via special design though. "What in the fuck about this leather jacket that doesn't look any different from other leather jackets warrants paying $6,000 for it? It doesn't even fit better than the one I got for $170!" All those people who have no fashion desires of their own and instead only want the social benefits something would bring (such as whatever celebrities are rocking at the moment) don't get any of my respect either.

 

"Does this look good on me?"

"How do you think it looks on you?"

"Ugh, I asked for a reason!"

"Spare your money the fate of being squandered on what you don't even want. Oh, and you can carry your own bags."

Higher cost is sometimes tied to better constuction (in terms of material type or grade, stitching), but most of the time like you said, its just for the brand name slapped on it. I relate with this sentiment too XD; wearing my own style of clothes is a hobby of some importance to me, so I can see the frustration with people buying clothes just because its socially warranted or they have no desire to branch out. It's too bad the impossibly cool clothes of fiction get you so many weird looks on the street, haha.

 

As overused as generic anime opening J-Pop songs are, is there anything better for advertising a setting that makes use of "totally cool" design + high school + idols?

 

Indeed, its near brilliant when you think about it. I'm betting its a setup for some hardcore subversion though, accounting for what type of games Atlus is known for.



#11 Fire Blazer

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Posted 10 June 2015 - 09:38 PM

...

...

 

...

 

O_O

 

I love this really deep discussion, it's been a while since I've seen something like that, but I am really going to have to take out like 3 hours to adequately read all of this and respond to whatever I can/feel like, so yeah... O_o maybe this weekend, lol...


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#12 Mercurius

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Posted 11 June 2015 - 07:14 AM

Add some more hours to that, Blazer. (I don't have much to actually talk about when it comes to SMTxFE though. Not enough info.)

----

I mentioned not challenging your stance mainly because it can be unusual to provide as much information as I did without trying to start an argument, like, if I already guessed you would know about these kinds of things, would there be much incentive to normally say that much about it? So it might make more intuitive sense if I didn't make the disclaimer to assume that I was unable to parse your statements properly, which would lead to a circle that involves re-explaining the same thing for no reason.

 

I'm probably one of the least reserved people here when it comes to potentially offending others, unintentionally or not.

 

That said June, your most recent post's commentary inspired an (unfortunately unlikely to ever come to fruition) idea for a very interesting game in me. It would be an MMORPG designed to fuse together the best of both worlds in WRPGs and JRPGs as they are now. Think of what the goals of these genres tend to be:

JRPG:

Set characters with significant personalities (enough for people to expect you to actually care about them anyway)

Character interaction

Spectacle

Narratively compelling battles

Involving as many menus as possible

 

WRPG:
Exploration

Expression

Agency (choices that affect an events' outcome...ideally)

Rich, almost overwhelming lore

I'll get back to you on immersion after I find out how it works

 

MMORPG:
Keeping players in the endless-by-design game

Creation of a virtual society (with a whole lot more measures for importance than "Amount of friends and likes")

Eternal balance (in a PvE context, MMORPGs are the only RPGs you can really rely on to ALWAYS make it difficult to curbstomp important enemies, although certain opponents lose their importance over time...)

Destroying the customer's grasp on reality

 

None of these are mutually exclusive. All three also share certain traits(basically whatever makes them all fall under the "RPG" label) and as it is MMORPGs already often try to incorporate elements of the other two. However, they are often really awkward about how they incorporate it, if they're trying to go for a JRPG feel and force you into having a specific identity as a certain character class, it just feels awkward when they keep referring to you like you're the only one of your kind, because in the actual game there are clones of you everywhere and most of you are using hilariously out of place names. And it kind of defeats the character's identity to some extent if they let you customize them too much (which they usually do.)

 

If they're trying to go for the WRPG feel (which I feel like is more of an unintentional effect than anything) it feels much better to make your character who you want it to be, but most of the time the lore is really annoying to find and behind loads of fetch quests for people you barely know that you would have to be really generous to bother doing from an in-universe perspective, which leads to everyone caring even less about the world and really just wanting to focus on becoming as powerful as possible ASAP for the gameplay aspects.

 

So how would I envision a game that ties all of these goals into one, each of them supporting the other rather than invading on the other's territory?

 

The answer is one that sounds really pathetic, honestly: NPC companion.

 

"What? NPCs? Dude, you're playing a game with tons of real human beings in it and you want us to focus on NPC companions? Get a lif- oh wait actually no we need you to stick around for business, please don't go!"

 

There's a big problem to friends that are actual human beings. You don't really get that invested in them unless they specifically happen to be your type, and even then you keep your distance for the sake of respect. Additionally, when they do participate in storyline content with you, it will be really hard to synchronize anything two players are doing progress-wise, and most importantly, actual human beings are not always available! If you are looking forward to an experience with a friend, them turning out not to be online is only a downer. Waiting isn't fun either.

 

But NPC companions kind of tend to be dull and stuff as it is. So what do you have to do to make them interesting? Make the NPC companion the main character.

 

I don't mean like Chrom and the Avatar where the game tries to make Chrom seem like the more important guy but ends up really giving you all the big story relevance anyway. I mean where the NPC is the true main character, and you take the role of a follower. In the scenario I have imagined, as you begin the game:

 

There are six NPC companions. Three boys and three girls (to increase accessibility for all players) all with separate, personal storylines, with varied backgrounds and designs. You choose which one to follow on character creation. You also choose to follow them either as a subordinate or as a superior, like some butler or lord's sheltered daughter or something(hey, if you're going to commit to playing an MMORPG, you BETTER be inside long enough to relate to houselocked roles) that is dragged into the adventure of another. It's like an indirect call to adventure or something.

 

The NPC companions serve to become your source for the first two listed goals under "JRPG", perhaps even making it so extreme as to prevent you from leveling up and exploring much of the world without progressing in their story event, since otherwise many players may just go do whatever and forget the game even had a story. I mean, think about it, normally you don't even exist as a personal character in a JRPG. Being a side-character can't be all that bad, you're still mainly here for the sake of them as it is. And what does this stop you from doing? Nothing! You still have access to extraordinary levels of personal customization, your stats probably still work out in the same way they usually do, you're still likely the one that has to go out and discover (the NPC companion doing it for you would take parts away from it being a game and it being more of something to watch, so they probably just give hints like "There's something about this room...I can feel it. Let's look around."), you're still the one that has to do the bulk of the fighting(even if the screen might not make it look that way), all it really takes away is the spotlight, AKA you don't get to be:
 

some super amazing mega god who solves everyone in the virtual universe's problems

 

So what does this all mean? What problems does this avoid that MMOs usually have to put up with?

For one, you are always with your companion. There are endless opportunities to get to know them better, and no matter what having them by your side will have to form a connection between you and the character at some point.

 

Another thing is that the companion is a specific character that also reserves the attention typically given to you for themselves. You are their supporter. You don't have to deal with the game making you play out as someone you can't identify with, involving quest responses that just make you think: "I wouldn't say/do that!" Your player character is primarily a medium to learn more about your companion...

 

...and your companion is also perfect for being the one to help you learn about the game. They can be your tutorial guide in one of the most natural and seamless ways possible, remember when I said "butler" or "lord's sheltered daughter"? These two roles normally wouldn't know how to go off on a videogame adventure. "How do I use sword?" It is an opportunity for and the responsibility of your companion, who dragged you into this in the first place(somehow), to help you become someone that is suitable for the game...and what better medium to have this long process done than in the grindfest MMORPG? You have so many things to learn; skills, economics, enemy weaknesses and strengths, stat distributions, equipment properties, upgrade processes, where what happens and when, and instead of going to some forum or wiki to read up on guides and stats and so on or always having to check the game site to find out when certain events are or where the quests happen, you can just ask your NPC friend! They won't ever be snide or criticize you. They understand your situation and have responsibility. You don't have to deal with any assholes that go "If you can't even handle a little criticism..." when they go out of their way to inform you in a condescending fashion. You have a friend at all times.

 

No matter what character you chose, it will establish them as being reliable and make you more comfortable with the structure of the relationship. Additionally, as you explore the world(the WRPG side of it, "Exploration"), instead of you having to find lore(more of the WRPG side) behind "some guy's" fetch quest, your chosen companion instead demonstrates their knowledge of the place(which may be limited, you might have to make another character with a different companion to learn more first-hand!) And speaking of quests, instead of "some guy" giving it to you and expecting you to put up with their typically unreasonable request...it could be your companion that gives you the quests. Maybe they won't even tell you why. But during their storyline(or whatever sidequest you felt like going on that they agreed to because reasons), it turns out there's an objective they need to accomplish...and they want your help.

 

Here's another benefit to them always sticking with you: the quest might give the illusion of being a smaller burden. If for whatever reason the scenario is that you need to collect 500 "Mystical Herb", your companion could ask you(or you could ask them if you're the one who got the quest from someone else) to get 250 "Mystical Herb"...don't worry, he/she will get the rest! That's not any different in workload from if the quest simply happened to be "get 250 Mystical Herb" in the first place instead of making the pretense "get 500", but doesn't it make you feel better about doing it anyway? It's not some NPC that always stands in the same place doing nothing loading all the work on you. It's someone who wants your help with something both of you probably benefit from overall, and instead of getting some throwaway gratitude from "some guy" NPC, you instead receive greater trust from your companion, which may lead to them becoming more comfortable about talking to you with more sensitive matters. Some parts of their storyline might even need a certain "trust rating" to continue, increasing the playtime(those fetch quests exist for a reason) in the game, but doing so in a way that you know is meaningful.

 

But what's the most amazing thing? What about all of this doesn't pose a problem in an MMORPG?

NPCs can be made invisible to other players.

 

This solves the huge issue with the awkwardness that is clones everywhere. There doesn't need to be clones everywhere. The NPC companion you have is effectively the only one of his/her kind. it makes them out to be that much more of an individual, which is really important when you are playing the game for them. All those other companion-less players sticking around are great at doing something else: making the world alive. NPCs usually try to take this role in offline games. Online? They don't have to, and frankly, they suck at it with how little effort is usually put into them. This will also serve to conserve a lot of effort on the developer's end for making a bunch of unique, shallow NPCs for quests or whatever (just have your companion give you quests! Or approach your companion's family members for quests or something. Whatever the case, it's "people you know" instead of "some guys".)

 

----

 

But enough about what the companions can do for your experience. That's not really what their main purpose is. Their main purpose is for you to invest in their experience. Starting out, being that both of you would be really low level, the story would most likely take on rather small, mundane matters of everyday life. But there's something a bit special to that in itself; how often do you get to see this side of a character? They're usually too busy just using this kind of event as filler until BAM YOUR LIFE IS FUCKED HERE TAKE THIS ADVENTURE. What if, for example, you go into their room at an inopportune moment and find something they wouldn't want you to know about? That's an event that's only really for if you're not too busy doing plot things for plot advancement. Those small, easy quests early on in the game are going to be boring anyway 99% of the time. But then your partner starts complaining in a way(that you can relate to) that foreshadows what's to come:

 

"I don't want to live this kind of life anymore...do you?"

Answer:No

"Really now? Hey, from what I've heard, you've never been out of this castle for your whole life, have you?"
Answer:No

"Then...how does an adventure sound to you? There's always been something that I've wanted to do...something that I couldn't do alone. Will you come with me?"

Answer:Yes

FIRST EPISODE START!

 

or

 

Answer:No

"What, really? That's a shame. There's such a vast world beyond us, full of explorers out there potentially making a legend out of themselves. Tell me if you ever have a change of heart, hopefully not when it's too late."

 

This is still a call to adventure. But it's not something weird and sudden. You're in a role where you've been with this person for a long time(even if you don't know them that well)...and he/she has an ambition. This isn't enough for them, and they don't think it's enough for you, either. Maybe you're even the only one they can trust enough to ask this. But who knows what their start to adventure will be? A plan of treachery to free them of their social duties, even should it mean exile? The reveal of a mysterious artifact that the main character (them, not you) has been hiding all this time, waiting for this moment to share it with you so that they may one day find out what it means? The intention to join the occult and become something beyond human via their practices, but with a safety net(you) to keep them from going too far? It all depends on who you chose to be your companion.

 

But whatever it is, it would always be slow paced. This is an MMO after all. And what can a slow pace offer you? More time to interact with the character, more time to see how they think and feel about what's happening, more time for silly little things that indicate something about them that don't have any place in a fast plot, more time to just kick back and relax (and maybe talk about things neither of you want to hear but need to discuss, like the financial consequences of what they've been doing lately.) Everything would start out from a small-scale episode (that are still packed with meaningful content, just not "GOTTA SAVE THE WORLD OMG" as an objective) that one-ups itself each episode, because an MMO has the time for that. It expects you to stick around long enough to pull it off. At the beginning, there might only be 3 episodes for each NPC companion, none of which conclude the true scope of their adventure. But that's only a bad thing in an offline game. An MMORPG is a growing thing, every expansion, someone could get a new episode. Something to continue on the adventure. Maybe they'll even listen to some fan theories about what'll happen next or what to add to their backgrounds and roll with it. And until then, when you've finished the episodes available?

Talk to your friends. Your MMO friends. About your companions. About what you learned about them. About how cute/hilarious/badass/intriguing/profound/relatable you found them. About what that bit of lore and personal memories they mentioned over at "Enchanted Mines of the Black Forest" and "Azure Volcano of the Abyss" might foreshadow, what it might mean in the bigger picture. About how much the episode's cliffhanger pissed you off and how your companion REFUSES to tell you anything about it even with his/her Trust rating super high. About how you have no idea what would have happened if you chose the other response, and feel the need for your friend with the same companion to tell you the answer. About how you thought up some hilarious comics about situations you could have seen in another angle from what the game intended but can't be bothered to draw them. MMOs naturally provide a subject for all players of the game: the content of the game. This is one of the greatest strengths of the MMO community. And when should you talk about this? When you're off doing those little sidequests and so on to fill in the time. When there's a dungeon unrelated to the story that you can get together to clear out. When you're busy trying to sell that rare drop you got at the auction house and have nothing else to do in particular. There are all kinds of moments in MMOs where you are out of the action enough to engage in some conversation with fellow players. And really, the best thing about fan theories is being able to share and discuss them.

 

And you know what? Your NPC companion isn't the only important person in the game either. I mean, JRPGs are about a cast after all, it won't do much good if everything is all about one person(that's how WRPGs feel at times...), that'd just be insufferable. The NPC companion's other acquaintances and their antagonists could easily serve as fairly interesting characters in themselves. Some of the really popular ones might even turn into NPC companions themselves later down the line and get their side of the story too, adding to the default number(6) of options new characters can choose to accompany.
----

There are some things I couldn't really find a place to explain them in, but let's look at the list of goals in the three genres again:

 

JRPG:

Set characters with significant personalities (enough for people to expect you to actually care about them anyway)

Character interaction

Spectacle

Narratively compelling battles

 

WRPG:
Exploration

Expression

Agency (choices that affect an events' outcome...ideally)

Rich, almost overwhelming lore

 

MMORPG:
Keeping players in the endless-by-design game

Creation of a virtual society (with a whole lot more measures for importance than "Amount of friends and likes")

Eternal balance (in a PvE context)

 

Let's look at what the scenario has melded together in a harmonious way:

  1. Characters with significant personalities (you might not be the one controlling them, but they're there alright. The initially small limit of 6 with distinct storylines also makes it a lot easier for there to be varied writers taking off the workload from other ones without getting inconsistent about it, while still remaining high quality.)
  2. Character interaction (you and the NPC companion, the NPC companion with whoever is relevant in their storyline)
  3. Spectacle (this is really just a matter of how much money they're willing to put in, and MMOs are prohibitively expensive as it is so might as well throw more money at the effects and cutscenes and so on)
  4. Narratively compelling battles (With how the events start off being small-scale and build up at a slow pace, it's bound to contribute extremely to rising action if the enemy is well-written enough, while satisfying you with temporary conclusions on the way each time an "arc" ends.)
  5. Eternal balance (the leveling up cap from where you are in the story stops you from being too overpowered for a boss fight, which will also make the boss fight that much more significant, because you can't just cheese your way through it. It contributes to the effectiveness of 4.)
  6. Exploration (all MMORPGs should set out to promise more and more open-world content as it lives on, so this is just a given)
  7. Expression (As stat-crazy MMORPGs can get, most of the time it also offers the most cosmetic customization out of every videogame ever, and there are all kinds of different skills and weapons and so on you can play with. Additionally, your expression won't be impaired by the narrative making you do things that you feel aren't in-character for you, because your character isn't significant enough to have to railroad them into being a certain kind of personality.)
  8. Agency (you...don't have any control over just how much loyalty you have for your NPC companion, and most of the time it's their choices that matter rather than yours, but it's very possible that they will often ask for your input, or for you to need to intervene in certain situations, like breaking up a fight between your companion and his/her older brother, choosing whether or not to check for if their meals are poisoned, or something. It is demoted from overflowing with sheer choice and freedom to becoming a matter of reducing it to the level of necessity though.)
  9. Rich, almost overwhelming lore (If the devs happened to include it, having the NPC companion mention it in certain contexts makes for a far more interesting experience than reading up on item descriptions and otherwise-useless books and so on. The companion would also tell you these things little by little, maybe telling you more if you ask. So not so much as it encouraging lore so much as saying it can be told in a more relevant way, since this would double as characterization.)
  10. Endless-by-design game (MMOs are always designed this way)
  11. Creation of a virtual society (Talking about the NPC companion gives you more things to talk about in the game to others, which may make it easier to make friends and so on. Economic and political matters form by themselves using the usual system's features like player-run shops and guilds.)
  12. Destroying the customer's grasp on reality

The one thing it would really be missing is the "immersion" factor, I guess. I really don't think that the photorealistic look or realism in general is good for MMORPGs, and that especially goes for one that's supposed to be character-driven. The creators should have as much freedom as they can afford to use with how much stuff they will probably need to design. So the typical WRPG fanatic might look at the NPC companion with blue hair and go "wtf?! breakin' mah immursionz!"  and be alienated from the game. Or for whatever other reason they can come up with (other human players being a huge, rather reasonable one.) Since the JRPG part of it seems to be a huge emphasis with the WRPG and MMORPG part being more of a side-effect or part of how it usually is anyway, I imagine cel-shaded models designed by an anime-style artist who can actually make different faces would be best for the characters. Sprites kind of have a problem in that they make the world 2D or have this weird angle you look at your characters from (diagonally from above), the former has the issue of decreasing the potential for exploration, the latter has the problem of making how you look at others kind of impersonal.

 

I kind of want kirant to respond to this since it seems he's into game design to some level.

 

EDIT: I forgot to mention what the purpose of the superior v.s. subordinate choice was. Basically it would change up what you can do in an episode to change the course of events in a given episode, and probably how your companion talks to you. But in any case, the longer you go on an adventure together, the closer you and your NPC companion would be to becoming equals, so it evens out the longer you play.

----

 

I might actually buy Persona 5. I didn't really find 4 all that appealing based on what I've seen of it but this one seems to remove itself somewhat more from the mundane. Persona 4's theme of accepting the self isn't really anything that's been a problem to me personally either. I'd be like Adachi. One with the shadow, instant Persona. (Whatever theme they're going with honestly isn't too important to me though, I just want to try out the demon summoning/fusing videogame thing from the source. Well not the source, but from a spinoff of the source.)


I believe in judgment of humans through their judgment of fiction, for nothing else tells better of their disposition freed from apprehension.


#13 JuneoftheMearkat

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Posted 12 June 2015 - 08:26 PM

I wish I was more well-versed in MMO's, I never really got into them for more than brief periods of time because of several factors. The cost (I like to pay for my games once and that's it), the volatile communities of many of them (I'm a very non-competitive person in the first place, and the amount of condescension in popular MMO's could make me break down in tears in front of my monitor), the confusing cohesion of the world story and amount of objectives (its not the same as a regular RPG, where the limited scope keeps everything at least fairly reasonable to discover), and just the general focus on stat optimization (which I've never cared for much as a goal to strive towards in games, other than just collecting the equipment itself as a challenge). The exploration was always a strong draw along with the comeraderie of making teams, but man, that time sink. Being a complete hermit, I play mostly single player ventures when it comes to long games (vs. a fighter or something) because I know eventually there will be an end to complete. It's like a trophy, a label that shows I accomplished something. In an MMO, which are endless-by-design, I can't really grasp at that gratification because I always know there will be more out there (until the creators abandon the game).

 

But enough about my nerdy preferences, lets get into the actual template presented here...

 

However, the setup you've described here definitely subverts the conventions of what an MMO is meant to be like, and while an NPC companion as the main character would get some laughs at the pitch board, I think a lot more people would be interested in trying it than expected. While its nice to have what one may call "absolute control" over your actions in the game world, having to consider the desires of a protagonist companion could give way to some compromise and introspection on the player's part, as they would also have to weigh in the merits of constantly helping someone else complete their goals/dreams instead of just focusing on their own (which many gamers often do). 

 

Therefore, we may come across the problem of player resentment towards the companion character. The player thinks "I want to be the one calling the shots" or that they're not truly important to the outcome of the game universe. No matter how endearing the companion character may be designed or written, there will be players out there who will hate them all the same for stealing spotlight from themselves or inherently "forcing" them to do tasks that they didn't choose. Which is why a strong establishment of the players place in the narrative and game structure is imperative at the start of the game. The game has to make sure the player knows that they are not the "almighty avatar" here; they do have some influence, but ultimately they will need to find fulfillment by taking a journey and learning how to be the best "friend and support" they can be.

 

The device of having a non-viewpoint main character that is viewed through the lens of a sidekick has been used in classic literature to good effect (One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest comes to mind) so extrapolating that to games may not be a big stretch. I like that this basically forces the developers to make their in-game NPC's extremely likable and compelling, lest they will lose the player's interest quickly since the player's quest revolves around those characters in the first place.

 

Since the JRPG part of it seems to be a huge emphasis with the WRPG and MMORPG part being more of a side-effect or part of how it usually is anyway, I imagine cel-shaded models designed by an anime-style artist who can actually make different faces would be best for the characters. Sprites kind of have a problem in that they make the world 2D or have this weird angle you look at your characters from (diagonally from above), the former has the issue of decreasing the potential for exploration, the latter has the problem of making how you look at others kind of impersonal.

 

The term for the "diagonally from above" look would be 2.5D or an isometric viewpoint (though you probably already knew that :P). While a cel-shaded design is fairly classic and has wide appeal, there is an opening here for a stylized mix of western and eastern elements (I'm kinda thinking of the French MMO Wakfu as an example of combining the two, if you've ever heard of that one).

 

I would make more comments but I have to also work on some job stuff so I'll get back to you with more feedback/discussion segway later on.



#14 Snow

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Posted 12 June 2015 - 10:20 PM

So I don't really have loooooooong opinions about many things, so I'm sorry if this isn't up to par with most of the other posts.

 

Looks pretty cool. I want to see some of the combat because I've never played SMT so I don't know how that will affect the game for me.


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#15 JuneoftheMearkat

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Posted 13 June 2015 - 03:26 AM

SNOW YOU RUINED EVERYTHING-

Haha honestly it's cool that you can stay calm and positive about the news without getting in over your head. Once you get on the hype train speculating until your head melts it can actually sometimes end up ruining the game once it comes out. I don't think that will happen in this case, but in the meantime the discussion can get pretty intense O_o.

 

You haven't played SMT? Would you want to try one of the games sometime? Most of them are pretty cool, but they vary a lot in difficulty, atmosphere, and some base mechanics between entries in the series (the main series, Digital Devil Saga, Devil Survivor, Persona, Soul Hackers, oh lordy...). All of them are basically known for the mechanic of fusing demons of the tarot arcana into new demons and passing down skills and exploitation of elemental weaknesses in battle to gain extra turns (the "press turn" or "one more" system). Also dark shit. Lots and lots of dark (often eldrich horror) shit.



#16 Snow

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Posted 13 June 2015 - 03:38 AM

The dark themes sound right up my alley, though I'll wait to see which is closest to FExSMT. I do vaguely remember playing Devil Survivor once, though I don't remember much of it, hopefully I like the combat. 


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#17 JuneoftheMearkat

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Posted 13 June 2015 - 04:14 AM

From the looks of the info we have, SMTxFE is easily closest to the Persona series in gameplay (not any surprise there, why not use their most successful formula?). The thing about SMT is that the mainline games (such as Nocturne or the latest one IV that came out for the 3DS) and Digital Devil Saga use the "press turn" system. There was a reason I differentiated the "press turn" and "one more" systems in my last post; "one more" is based off "press turn" but they're not the exact same thing. Basically what happens in SMT combat is you can test and find the weaknesses of enemies (either by just flat out guessing and gaining info or scanning the enemies with certain skills) then use a move (can be a magic element or a physical element both are divided into categories) to knock them down and gain "extra turns". These extra turns can be spent later by you or your demons for more moves in a turn (which is imperative because enemies are strong in these games and you should try to knock them out as fast as possible), and chained into more weakness exploitations. However, the enemies can do the exact same thing to you; if you're not careful, they can destroy the turns you built up, knock you down if you have a weakness, and wipe you out easily.

 

"One more" on the other hand, is kind of a simplified version of "press turn". This system is used in Persona and Devil Survivor (though they're different in each, can't remember exactly how at the moment). A character can exploit a weakness, then they (and only that character) automatically gain another turn that you use immediately (instead of saving up among the party). That character can repeat this over and over to knock all enemies down if they want (depends, it can be costly in terms of MP or HP which you may need to conserve at times), but chaining turn gains is limited by how many enemies you can knock down (and once they're down, you can't get another turn from them until they get back up). Enemies can still do the same as you (and it's just as deadly), so watch out.

 

I'd say go for Persona if you want it to be close to what SMTxFE will most likely be like, but I'd also recommend Devil Survivor as a first venture into the series just because of a few factors. One, the Devil Survivor games are on handheld so they're a lot more convenient to play in bursts (unless we're counting Persona 3 portable for PSP or the Persona 4 Golden remake for PSVita). Two, they're on a grid system that moves into a 3 on 3 battle screen when attacking (no freeform confusing dungeons). And three, they have the most simplified version of the demon fusing system. You can see exactly what demon you will get (in the mainline series you don't know what it will be if its a demon you haven't encountered before) and choose the exact skills that get passed down (instead of it being randomized, which still happens in Persona).  Regardless of these streamlined features, the Devil Survivor series still has the trademark difficulty and apocalyptic chaos/order plotlines, so you wouldn't be losing out or anything. As for Persona, they're the lightest entries of the series in terms of horrible events (which says something about this series XD) but have some of the deepest characters (those social links) and retain the great battle/fusion system all the same.



#18 Mercurius

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Posted 13 June 2015 - 06:55 PM

 

I wish I was more well-versed in MMO's, I never really got into them for more than brief periods of time because of several factors. The cost (I like to pay for my games once and that's it), the volatile communities of many of them (I'm a very non-competitive person in the first place, and the amount of condescension in popular MMO's could make me break down in tears in front of my monitor), the confusing cohesion of the world story and amount of objectives (its not the same as a regular RPG, where the limited scope keeps everything at least fairly reasonable to discover), and just the general focus on stat optimization (which I've never cared for much as a goal to strive towards in games, other than just collecting the equipment itself as a challenge). The exploration was always a strong draw along with the comeraderie of making teams, but man, that time sink. Being a complete hermit, I play mostly single player ventures when it comes to long games (vs. a fighter or something) because I know eventually there will be an end to complete. It's like a trophy, a label that shows I accomplished something. In an MMO, which are endless-by-design, I can't really grasp at that gratification because I always know there will be more out there (until the creators abandon the game).

I feel like the volatile communities in popular MMOs is largely because of how there isn't as much for people to actually care about in them anymore other than simply becoming more powerful. This is particularly because of the power inflation that occurs over time. In the MMO I played for the longest time, no matter how well you upgraded your equipment with the luckiest chances you could get, the gap between you and the other player simply could not get that high. As a result the common player was still valuable in comparison to the wealthy player, the wealthy player could kill something that takes you 5 hits to kill in 2, but because they are so much fewer in number, it was still worth getting common players together to help. But then the power inflation got more and more ridiculous, and ended up in making certain bosses impossible to defeat by players who did not invest that much into stats, even when they were in large numbers. Only the wealthy players remained relevant in high level content, and as a result the elitism became much more severe.

 

This wouldn't be as much of a problem in a game that provides more subjects to attract a wider audience(such as the one proposed) and really, when you are designing a game that is specifically meant to be capable of holding extremely high numbers of players, it's only better to appeal to as wide of an audience as you can. MMOs these days try to achieve this by simply making leveling up faster and easier, but all this really leads to is emphasizing on high level content(where the power inflation is most relevant), breezing through all those other things that are largely abandoned because everyone is advancing too fast to care about checking them out. Even if you try to take it slow, others will not, leaving you alone. This is a terrible thing to happen in a game where the appeal is in playing with a large number of other people, and it's certainly true that without active friends(which are harder to find in the new, fast MMO environment) to keep your MMO life positive, it never feels worth investing the time into it.

 

A large part of the appeal of having a strong story/character focus in the hypothetical MMO I've proposed is in that it decreases the gap between the veteran and casual players, and the common and wealthy players. They might still have a large gap in terms of stats, but there is something to connect these players together outside of that, making it easier to make friends even with players that are far beyond you in power. It doesn't matter if you're with a level 100 at level 20 if there's something about your shared(as in, both of you chose the same one) companion that hasn't been resolved yet to discuss, and with how longtime players have probably forgotten some details from the earlier episodes, giving them a reminder from your own experience playing through it could add to the veteran's opinion of his or her companion. To make that work though, there would probably a subtle indicator as to who has what companion, like the color of their name. All the people who chose companion #1 would have red names (and companion #1 would have a red name themselves) while the ones that chose companion #2 would have blue ones and so on. Blatantly mentioning who their companion is by name on a status screen or something gives the "clones everywhere" impression so the more obvious approach should be avoided.

 

However, the setup you've described here definitely subverts the conventions of what an MMO is meant to be like, and while an NPC companion as the main character would get some laughs at the pitch board, I think a lot more people would be interested in trying it than expected. While its nice to have what one may call "absolute control" over your actions in the game world, having to consider the desires of a protagonist companion could give way to some compromise and introspection on the player's part, as they would also have to weigh in the merits of constantly helping someone else complete their goals/dreams instead of just focusing on their own (which many gamers often do). 

 

Therefore, we may come across the problem of player resentment towards the companion character. The player thinks "I want to be the one calling the shots" or that they're not truly important to the outcome of the game universe. No matter how endearing the companion character may be designed or written, there will be players out there who will hate them all the same for stealing spotlight from themselves or inherently "forcing" them to do tasks that they didn't choose. 

There would definitely be content outside of the companion's storylines. There has to be to fill in the time between the last episode available until the next expansion, even if it would most likely be fairly bare-bones in terms of actual story or anything like that(gotta save that effort for where it's meant to be.) So it's not really a matter of constantly helping the companion, you can take a break with something else the game has to offer when you feel like it. You'll eventually have to get around to doing it but hey, as much as such a player would procrastinate, they would still be playing the game, which is good enough as far as the company is concerned.

 

For players that don't want to deal with tasks they didn't personally choose at all though? The ones that want to skip the story and get into the big parts of the gameplay ASAP, that would get pissed off over the story level cap I've mentioned? The ones who are more interested in a power trip than anything? (I know what you mentioned isn't this in particular, but going by patterns of MMO players these guys are the ones that would find the compromise most unsettling.) Frankly I think your comment here isn't quite up to par:

Which is why a strong establishment of the players place in the narrative and game structure is imperative at the start of the game. The game has to make sure the player knows that they are not the "almighty avatar" here; they do have some influence, but ultimately they will need to find fulfillment by taking a journey and learning how to be the best "friend and support" they can be.

This would basically alienate all the customers that don't want to deal with that. Instead, let us take an inhumane approach: exploit them.

 

[Episode 1:Skip to Last Boss] $20

[Episode 2:Skip to Last Boss] $40
[Episode 3:Skip to Last Boss] $60
[Episode 4:Skip to Last Boss] $80
[Episode 5:Skip to Last Boss] $100

(and so on...)

 

This is a player that doesn't want to experience the majority of what the developers have put so much labor and resources into creating. These kinds of players either tire fast of the game anyway or are the kinds of people that would spend exorbitant amounts of money making their character as overpowered as possible or something as it is. If they don't like your game and just want to flaunt their power to others or something of the like? Have them pay the price. BAM, instant $300. If they find out that it wasn't worth it when they get there and ragequit? Well hey you still have their money, and that kind of player isn't that beneficial to the community anyway. If the only appeal they found in your game was just having a partner to look cute next to them with no interest who they are? Those players can fork up the cash too. If they don't even want to hear their companions say anything outside of episode dialogue? [Companion Silencer] $50. If they don't even want a companion in the first place? [Invisible Companion] $30. (Silencer must be purchased to keep the invisible companion from talking, so make that $80 in total to get rid of them entirely.)

 

There are all kinds of ways you can make money off giving someone more power over the game. Let's say that for consistent design purposes, your companion only accepted light armor as a gift, or that they don't want to wear glasses, or that they find excessive jewelry distasteful, or that they really hate wearing certain colors, and so on. If someone doesn't want that, if they want their companion to look as different as what they want them to, no matter how much it infringes on their characterization, they can deal with this:

 

[Unlock Companion's Armor Restriction:Hat] $15

[Unlock Companion's Armor Restriction:Torso] $15
[Unlock Companion's Armor Restriction:Glove] $15
[Unlock Companion's Armor Restriction:Legs] $15
[Unlock Companion's Armor Restriction:Footwear] $15
[Unlock Companion's Armor Restriction:Cloak] $10
[Unlock Companion's Armor Restriction:Earring] $10
[Unlock Companion's Armor Restriction:Necklace] $10
[Unlock Companion's Armor Restriction:Belt] $10
[Unlock Companion's Armor Restriction:Glasses] $10
[Unlock Companion's Armor Restriction:Mask] $10
[Unlock Companion's Armor Restriction:Rings] $10
[Unlock Companion's Hair Palette Restriction] $20
[Unlock Companion's Skin Palette Restriction] $20
[Unlock Companion's Armor Palette Restriction] $20
[Unlock Companion's Underwear Palette Restriction] $50 (I'm completely sure there would be people that actually pay for this, even if you could only see it by having them stripped of useful equipment. You can just make all companions have really modest underwear if you want to stay reputable.)
 
And if they don't want to pay up? Not much of a loss not having those guys around anyway.

While a cel-shaded design is fairly classic and has wide appeal, there is an opening here for a stylized mix of western and eastern elements (I'm kinda thinking of the French MMO Wakfu as an example of combining the two, if you've ever heard of that one).

The cel-shading is mostly to make it age as well as it can while still being tolerable for players with less powerful computers. I looked at the designs for Wakfu, and I'm not so sure if I would be very welcoming of that specific way of doing it. The somewhat more grotesque(for lack of a better term) aesthetic may alienate a lot of players who tend to normally buy JRPGs, and to some level it might make them less capable of relating to the companions as well.

 

I'm personally super used to the anime aesthetic so I didn't realize that it might alienate people that find it unusual the first time around, but even then I still believe it is optimal for the game. Perhaps a somewhat more realistic version of the approach would be favorable (like Yuusuke Kozaki's but with more facial variety...like, I'm not even that sure what keeps his faces looking too similar to each other relative to other styles, but it's happening alright) but in any case, it was mainly meant to achieve three things:

  1. Make the game more appealing to the sorts of people who are normally into JRPGs as it is
  2. Provide freedom in choices with design (it's extremely strange to have some blue-haired spiky hair guy in a photorealistic aesthetic, not so much with anime)
  3. Remain relateable in identity to the player

That last part is what a more grotesque form sacrifices for its aesthetic. As important as your companions are, the player character themselves is still meant to be your way of existing in the game world, and expressing yourself through your customized design. The anime-look is extremely flexible in this respect, nothing feels particularly out of place when teenager, child, adult, elder, and so on is present in the same aesthetic, for instance, while also being capable of keeping itself to proportions that aren't alien from real human beings (when it feels like it.) It does have a problem in that it will make options for intentionally being really ugly conflict with the rest of it(consider how differently Excellus in Awakening had to be drawn, for instance. He doesn't look like he belongs in their world at all.), but that is a really small audience to market toward so we can just exclude that. They should both look as human as they can while also providing an environment where style is far less limited than it is in real life. Even the really high quality cosplayers would look strange(unless they specifically picked a character that would blend in enough) going into a convenience store in reality as an example, but that wouldn't be the case in a less realistic environment. It's a balance of detachment and attachment. (Also, this does not only apply to the characters. Consider for example, the difference between this and it's anime version of the building, or this and this. This kind of change is a large part of why things like spiky blue hair stop being weird.)


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#19 JuneoftheMearkat

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Posted 14 June 2015 - 06:02 AM

See, I wouldn't have ever thought of that! Because I don't play MMO's, it just doesn't occur to me to use transaction charges as leverage, even though its par for the course in this type of gaming environment. While the invocation of "pay up or shut up" seems harsh to some, it does effectively weed out the type of people that would be a nuisance to the average community the game is aiming to attract.

 

A large part of the appeal of having a strong story/character focus in the hypothetical MMO I've proposed is in that it decreases the gap between the veteran and casual players, and the common and wealthy players. They might still have a large gap in terms of stats, but there is something to connect these players together outside of that, making it easier to make friends even with players that are far beyond you in power. It doesn't matter if you're with a level 100 at level 20 if there's something about your shared(as in, both of you chose the same one) companion that hasn't been resolved yet to discuss, and with how longtime players have probably forgotten some details from the earlier episodes, giving them a reminder from your own experience playing through it could add to the veteran's opinion of his or her companion. To make that work though, there would probably a subtle indicator as to who has what companion, like the color of their name. All the people who chose companion #1 would have red names (and companion #1 would have a red name themselves) while the ones that chose companion #2 would have blue ones and so on. Blatantly mentioning who their companion is by name on a status screen or something gives the "clones everywhere" impression so the more obvious approach should be avoided.

 

This gap is actually a deterrent that I think has held some MMO's back a lot. Regardless of their popularity or the sheer robust amount of gameplay and options, a lot of MMO's have this "barrier" between level fields that makes you feel as if you're wasting your time if you aren't rising the ranks as fast as possible. I'm thinking of one of the few I played for a little while (mostly because it was free, I liked the beat-em-up combo system, and I had friends who wanted me to play) called Rusty Hearts. The game was fun, but there was this distinct gate between every dungeon section that opened upon hitting a certain level. Sure all MMO's end up being grindfest's in some way or another, but I always has this feeling as if I was being "rushed"; like I wasn't accomplishing something within the game if I didn't keep smacking enemies. Perhaps with a heavier focus on a character that doesn't need to "level up" (the NPC of course) as the catalyst for story events could help players stand back and relax, allowing themselves to explore the world that has been created (making the lore less tedious to bother finding).

 

The cel-shading is mostly to make it age as well as it can while still being tolerable for players with less powerful computers. I looked at the designs for Wakfu, and I'm not so sure if I would be very welcoming of that specific way of doing it. The somewhat more grotesque(for lack of a better term) aesthetic may alienate a lot of players who tend to normally buy JRPGs, and to some level it might make them less capable of relating to the companions as well.

 

Ah yeah Wakfu is honestly the only example I can think of in MMO realm that uses such an outlandish mix of art styles in the current gen. Not that being odd is necessarily better (in fact it isn't if you're trying to rake in the widest audience possible), but it would be interesting to see just how much personalization (in the sense of differentiating itself from other things out there) of your art style you could get away with without alienating players. Yusuke's Kozaki's style is notable for being highly detailed and kind of weird in spots (the "pornographic" surreal appeal you mentioned earlier), while still being attractive and "adult" (it's distinctly seinen derived), perhaps preventing some of the complainers who think the designs are too kitschy (and still leaving the ability for lots of crazy customization).



#20 Mercurius

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Posted 14 June 2015 - 12:00 PM

This gap is actually a deterrent that I think has held some MMO's back a lot. Regardless of their popularity or the sheer robust amount of gameplay and options, a lot of MMO's have this "barrier" between level fields that makes you feel as if you're wasting your time if you aren't rising the ranks as fast as possible. I'm thinking of one of the few I played for a little while (mostly because it was free, I liked the beat-em-up combo system, and I had friends who wanted me to play) called Rusty Hearts. The game was fun, but there was this distinct gate between every dungeon section that opened upon hitting a certain level. Sure all MMO's end up being grindfest's in some way or another, but I always has this feeling as if I was being "rushed"; like I wasn't accomplishing something within the game if I didn't keep smacking enemies. Perhaps with a heavier focus on a character that doesn't need to "level up" (the NPC of course) as the catalyst for story events could help players stand back and relax, allowing themselves to explore the world that has been created (making the lore less tedious to bother finding).

As much as I can understand the inhospitality the power gap presents(I've played a lot of MMOs, but in most cases I only reached mid-level or even low-level content, the latter usually being from the game being in its very early stages) I think that it is necessary to keep features of the game limited to players who are willing to invest enough into it, mainly due to the business model. A large reason of why so many MMOs are free to play today in spite of the high maintenance costs of MMORPGs is because even if you don't pay with any money, they do expect you to pay with something else: time. How they do this is either efficient or not but the goal is the same.

 

That said it's not as though I think it should be particularly restrictive. For instance, because your companion is now designated as your main lore source, let's say that every time you entered a relevant area, the companion, after making a brief comment of what they think of the place, would then be free to question for detailed explanation of where they are and what something is about and so on. I actually already mentioned this but here is where it becomes relevant in terms of freedom of exploration, as long as you can avoid getting killed throughout a high level zone via stealth, you can unlock lore that is supposed to be for later much earlier, because all your companion has to do is traverse the area thoroughly. There would still be many limitations present such as giving you no experience points or monetary rewards and the like if you killed the monsters (or you hit them and someone else killed it for you), and even with this option I wouldn't let the player have access to everything(such as information that is supposed to be important to high level quests or episodes that are currently unavailable), but it would allow them to get a better idea of what the place that is currently outside of their level range is like.

 

I think it is a problem in itself that you feel like you need to be rushing, though. MMORPGs are not supposed to be a game where you rush. Rushing basically invalidates level-appropriate content. As a veteran MMOer there is one thing that I know about the past that prevented this "rushing" mentality, and that was in everything being such an extreme grindfest you HAD to take it at leisure. Because you know that the goal is far-off no matter what you do about it, it makes later content significantly less appealing than present content. It's like a procrastination trick really. And if you keep "procrastinating" by finishing up the content appropriate to your level, then you actually do end up having access to the "later content" from the accumulated experience points anyway. In this sense, what an MMORPG really needs to provide you with is a better pacing design. (Either that, or it simply does not have enough substantial content, a much more significant problem for the newer MMOs out there which simply cannot measure to the sheer amount of development time older ones had throughout.)

 

That said what probably contributed most to your sense of "rushing" was likely comparison to the friends that invited you to the game. 99% of the time friends like those are far more invested in the game than you are at the point you decide to join, so you feel the need to catch up fast rather than play the game at leisure so that you can play together. For these kinds of situations, I think that a limited "gap-closer" can be warranted. The gap in itself will still exist, but temporary measures for allowing you to participate in content your friends are playing through will be available, like a demo.

 

For example, your friends could be level around level 50 by the time you are level 10, and they feel like going for a raid boss fight outside of the storyline content. Instead of locking you out altogether, I could grant the option for you to take control of the companion character of your friend(at their permission), who will have much more appropriate stats than your actual character. This also means that you will be locked to the skillset and appearance of their companion, however. In such a case, you will still be able to immediately participate in content that is appropriate for your friends, but you won't be able to do so as the individual you particularly want to play as(your own character) and you will not gain experience points or material reward. This both incentivizes you to play through the content that actually is appropriate for your own character for the sake of progression(so that one day, you can do that same raid boss fight in the body you wanted to fight it in, and so on), while still eliminating the need for the catch up mentality in special cases.

 

(My god, it's like this companion is a cure-all to MMO issues. Next thing you know developers will somehow come up with a way to get them involved in balancing the MMO economy.)

 

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On the subject of keeping players from a "rushing" mentality, as I have mentioned earlier, deliberate inconveniencing of players(such as being an extreme grindfest) forces them to take something at leisure. However, it isn't necessary to take such labor-intensive measures to do so, being a grindfest isn't really that beneficial overall to how much someone enjoys your game, after all. For instance, you can instead incorporate a fatigue system.

 

For 3 hours in the game, you can decently maintain you and your companion's stamina levels via the use of food items; If one half-hour takes away 100 stamina, you can eat a meal to restore 100 stamina. However, after 3 hours of play have been reached, stamina will start to decrease at double the rate, with the returned stamina from food no longer able to keep up (and just like real people, they would have limits on how much food they could consume at a time.) When 0 stamina is reached, players will be forced to travel at half the speed they normally can, which is an extremely annoying restriction. (To not be too hard on boss raiders, stamina levels will freeze inside of a boss room. They might have to deal with a fatigue penalty afterwards though.)

 

In order to restore yourself to the state where you only lose 100 stamina per hour rather than 200, you either have to log off for 5 hours, or stay at a location designated as a location suitable for lodging for an hour, during which stamina values will be frozen. This can either be an inn that has prices which scale to your level, making that an easy option for newer players but a costly one for powerful ones, or someone's(including your own) player-owned home. I am personally a massive fan of player-owned homes in MMORPGs, but unfortunately, they tend to not have that much function to them that makes them relevant to the game as a whole. This changes everything.

 

Let's say that in this system, player-owned homes are purchased using real money(for a large price), and that furniture is also purchased using real money(for a small price, though it varies depending on extravagance and function), and that for every 5 players you allow to enter your home for an hour, you gain 5 cents worth of "real money" added to your in-game real money balance. (Also, just to encourage buying better houses, limitations on how many players can enter will probably be involved. A castle can hold 100 people, a cottage can only hold 5 at a time.) In other words, by being hospitable to other players, you will gain a benefit that can allow you to buy cash items without actually having to pay real currency. (Note:The owner of the house has to stay in it to let people in, and manually answer requests from others to enter their home. So they can't just AFK it or go do something outside of their houses in the game if they want visitors. Maybe extended to letting a friend staying in the same home temporarily to answer requests too though.)

 

However, gamers absolutely love to show off their accomplishments to others. A gamer that is simultaneously stingy and wants to show off would invest in better houses and more furniture to show a better house to visitors, and be more hospitable than others for the sake of avoiding having to pay real currency for more furniture. (A simple chair could cost 10¢ for example, requiring that 10 players enter a home for an hour each.) This essentially forces people to meet each other outside of a combat context. So what do they do when they come in to stay for an hour? Well, they could just AFK, but if it's an interesting house, they could also look around and comment on the player's interior decoration choices, starting small talk between the two. This can lead to making friends. More than anything that is the benefit of leisure time in MMORPGs. There could also be furniture that serves to function as access to minigames to pass the time, though it would be obviously more expensive than purely decorative furniture.

 

Houses could also be locked to specific lands in order to either increase the need to visit others' houses more or increase the need to buy more houses, overall benefiting the community or company. (If a troll happens to show up just kick them out before they can complete their 1 hour rest.) If there was a plains region, a volcanic region, a swamp region, an ice region, and a desert region, this would mean that if one player wanted to avoid visiting others' houses or paying for inns in every location, they would have to purchase 5 houses. (Either that or travel to some other region to access their house which probably has costs and inconveniences of its own.) If the cheapest possible house for the plains region(usually the first area of any game where this kind of "region-based difficulty" convention applies) was $10, and this price rose the higher level your region generally was, this would greatly incentivize common players without much in-game money or the desire to spend much cash to visit player homes, no matter what level range they were in.

 

I personally believe this would teach everyone to appreciate non-combat content much more(decreasing the need to feel like they are being rushed) and enforce a good community for the game, getting so many people together to play is the purpose of an MMORPG to begin with after all. The community should be one of the greatest strengths of the genre, not its weakness.

 

Yusuke's Kozaki's style is notable for being highly detailed and kind of weird in spots (the "pornographic" surreal appeal you mentioned earlier)

That was specifically in the context of Awakening, where he doesn't actually have control over what the outfit designs look like (the art director is responsible for those), I'm not sure what he normally does for costume design and was only referring to the proportions of the face and body.


I believe in judgment of humans through their judgment of fiction, for nothing else tells better of their disposition freed from apprehension.





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