I didn’t forget about my entry on the pulls that keep gamers coming back for more. With my multi part look at Resonance of Fate I realized that while the game had excellent systems, it does not do a good job of motivating the player to keep playing (which I went into detail about in the final part). For today’s entry I’m going to talk about the draws that keep the player going, some of these will be the same as my talk on replay-ability as they can be applied to both topics.

Story: An interesting story can sometimes be all that is needed to keep someone playing for hours on end. Finding out what is going on or what is in store for the characters involved. This is a major pull for RPGS in general and as more games offer the player choices it allows them to see their own personalized version of the quest play out (play Alpha Protocol for a good example of this).

New Mechanics: When it comes to game-play there are two sides to talk about. First is giving the player new mechanics to use, such as in Half-Life 2 with the discovery of the gravity gun, or unlocking the demon fusion ability in the Shin Megami Tensei games. New mechanics grow the game-play and keep things from getting repetitive. It is important not to introduce something that will only be used once as then it is not a mechanic but just a set piece. If the mechanic is deep and game changing enough that could be all you need to keep the player invested.

It is important to mention that the addition of new mechanics can work no matter how complex the base game is, whether you are playing a game as easy to learn as Super Mario or something as complex as Resonance of Fate.

In some cases you could have all the mechanics available from the start and allow the player to pick which ones they want to learn first, such as with Disegea that featured numerous mechanics and systems that the player could basically ignore and still make it through the game.

New challenges: Not to be confused with mechanics, this is creating new obstacles or enemies for the player to deal with. In most cases you don’t even need to change the mechanics around as long as the challenge is different enough. For example in Ninja Gaiden Black, with each new chapter the game throws a new enemy at the player, such as Demon Ryu or rocket launcher enemies.

Boss fights are the easiest example of this; they are a new enemy that is different from the normal enemies and require different tactics to take down. Left 4 Dead 2 features “uncommon commons” which are campaign specific infected that have a unique ability or design requiring the player to change up their tactics.

One distinction that has to be made, just upping the stats of an enemy and calling it a day is not an example of this. There has to be a change requiring the player to adapt for this to work, if the only difference is that the enemy hits harder than the player is doing the same thing.

An infamous design in RPGs is to have post game content with enemies too challenging for the base game requiring more time spent leveling up and getting prepared to face them. Anyone who has played the Shin Megami Tensei games can remember the horror of fighting some of the insane optional boss fights.

New Equipment: This can also be used for re-playability. Using the same sword and shield for twenty hours gets boring. Action RPGs like Diablo always have the pull of some new shinier piece of equipment. Sometimes you can combine mechanics, challenges and equipment to pull the players in, such as in the Legend of Zelda series as each new piece of equipment offers new mechanics to learn and new challenges built around it.

In RPGS it can be customary to grind out battles for the necessary money or materials to get that new weapon. One detail that I see in a lot of RPGS is to have some kind of “ultimate weapon” that requires a combination of grinding and questing to achieve.

Should a game have everything mentioned on this list? Of course not and for some games their design prohibits some of these changes. For example in RTS titles you cannot radically change the mechanics of the game half way through a match as that would upset the game balance. If your game just has one of these ways of cultivating game-play that can be all you need to keep the player going.

With Resonance of Fate even though I’m 11 chapters in I don’t know if I’m going to finish it. I can’t help but feel that I’m going through the motions at this point and have seen everything that needs to be seen. I’m noticing this in a lot of RPGS that I’ve been playing and I should really come up with a witty phrase to describe it. Like Tom Chick has with the “Chick Parabola “.

Keeping the player invested in the game can be as hard as getting them to come back for more and is yet another detail for any good game designer to consider.

Josh

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Here we are the final part of my look at RoF; as mentioned before this will be about advanced tips followed by my overall impressions of the game.

1. Improving your weapons: Since your damage output is tied to your weapons it is important to know what to upgrade first. First above all else you want to get as many scopes as possible on your guns, the reason is that they affect charge up speed. The quicker you can charge means the higher the charge level you can attain. This is vital for SMGs as the initial charge up skill is damage output, if you can max out the charge level you can do insane damage with the SMGs.

Next are bullets, the more bullets fired at one time determined how much damage you’ll do per turn. Using sub barrels and extensions allow you to expand the available space on your gun allowing you to fit more parts on. On one of my SMGs I have a total of 3 scopes with additional scopes attach to said scopes. Other upgrades include a bonus to your charge up speed via barrels and improving accuracy and bullet spread with a hang guard. The last two pieces of equipment I didn’t find as important as the sights and magazines were.

2. Experience exploiting: One nifty trick you can use early on is exploiting scratch damage to get easy levels. Experience is earned by damage done and with that knowledge you can easily level up skills that start to sag. What you do is hit an enemy to fill up their bar with scratch damage, then have someone with the lowest level in either handgun or grenade finish them off by applying direct damage. I’ve gone up four levels at once thanks to this. Your best targets for this are higher level enemies or bosses, fighting dangerous encounters are also a great way to do this.

3. Don’t forget about grenades: While you will be hitting enemies with your SMGs most of the time, don’t forget about grenades as a source of damage. They do several times more damage than handguns and if your SMG user is in dispose of this can be a way of finishing off a fight. Grenades also do splash damage which can be helpful when dealing with large groups of enemies. Then we have aliment causing grenades which can be the edge needed to win a tough fight.

4. Making the most out of your turn: You can quickly switch between team members to end your turn and refill your time gauge. Remember that enemies will only respond if you are moving or attacking. If you get into the best range to attack an enemy but used up most of your bar, as long as the enemies aren’t ready to attack someone you can end your turn repeatedly until you get back to the same person who now has a full bar.

5. Advance use of heroic actions: Besides preparing tri-attacks, there are other uses for heroic actions. First for defense, they make a great escape tool for getting someone out of harm’s way if they are being focused on by the enemies. Once someone gets far enough away the enemies will stop focusing on them and focus on the nearest member.

For offense, performing a heroic action is the best way of hitting an enemy with a full charge bar. Run as far away from the enemy as you can to get maximum distance and then perform the action. By the time you reach the enemy (and with enough scopes for charge speed bonus) you should have max charge. Hitting an enemy while dual wielding SMGs like this can be enough to completely overlap most enemies’ health gauge. Not to mention the added bonus of hopefully knocking the enemy into the air to then pull off a bonus shot or knockdown attack.

Now it’s time for my actual opinion of RoF. This may come out as surprising to some but I don’t think I’m going to finish this, even after writing five entries worth of information about it. RoF features excellent game mechanics and has one of my favorite combat systems I’ve seen in some time, however after playing for at least 20 hours and 11 chapters the game has become stagnant.

In the time I’ve spent playing RoF, there has been no growth of the game mechanics. They basically played all their cards within the first hour of the game. A stark contrast to Final Fantasy 13 in which some say the first 20 hours of the game is the tutorial. I will say that I prefer Rof’s style to FF 13 any day of the week, but I’m finding that there is no reason to continue playing.

First the story is by far the weakest element. You get brief cut scenes before and after the chapter with random people, some of them I think are flashbacks but we’re not told this. While the conversations between the main cast are great, I found myself skipping past the other cut scenes. The chapters themselves plot wise have the case of the hour and then a few seconds of the overall plot. It almost reminds me of “filler hell” seen in animes like Naruto and Bleach.

While gun customization plays a huge role in RoF, past your initial upgrades you won’t be doing much here. By chapter 7 I had my guns completely filled with parts, any additional changes were just upgrades, replacing a scope with a better scope for example. I wish there was more variety with the parts, such as different types of scopes that offer different stats. Something such as in Borderlands in which each fictional gun maker designed their weapons differently, such as increase damage or better accuracy and so on.

The guns themselves also could have used some work, there weren’t a lot of guns to chose from, reaching chapter 11 not counting the initial 3 weapons I ran into only three other guns were available. This was another missed opportunity, as having different weapons along with different parts could have injected more complexity into customizing weapons.

Now as mentioned I’m at chapter 11 right now, could the next chapter unlock a virtual bounty of customization? Possibly, but will it change the game at all? The enemies themselves have also become repetitive. No matter how big they are or what status aliments they inflict, they still require the same combination of scratch and direct damage that works for all fights.

Minor spoiler warning:

I just looked at a gamefaqs guide which revealed that there are 15 chapters total in the game, meaning that I am well past the half way point of the main game at this time.

End spoiler.

There is variety in enemy types, from machines to monsters and what not but other than resistances to certain types of damage I never felt like I was being challenged by them (with exception to the dangerous situations).

I can’t help but feel like RoF is like a race car that shot out of the start of the race to then have engine trouble and had to stop. If they would have continued to expand on the mechanics or allowed us to really get crazy with them, Rof could have been one of the best JRPGs I’ve played since The World Ends With You.

I really want to see Tri-Ace expand on this with a sequel. They have an excellent game system and with the right improvements this could be an amazing series. It’s alright to let the player experience everything your game has to offer at the start, but you have to expand on that, if the player is doing the exact same thing 20 hours in as they were doing 1 hour in, then you have a problem.

Josh
links to previous parts:

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

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Within the last few years there has been a new design philosophy with MMOs and that is going from a pay per month model to a free to play with micro transactions. The first MMO that I saw do this was Dungeons and Dragons Online which was floundering before the change. Since then switching to the F2P model turned things around for DDO and this was not unnoticed by other developers.

Champions Online, Lord of the Rings Online and a few more I can’t remember off the top of my head went the same route. LOTRO reported a major success with this model and has since moved on to improving things using the micro transaction model. This tactic has become viable for MMOs looking to turn things around and for today’s entry I’m going to talk about the repercussions, both good and bad.

Let’s begin with the good:

All the time in the world: Personally one of things that I don’t like about monthly fee MMOs is that I never feel that I get my money’s worth. This goes back to me always switching between multiple games. By switching to a F2P model the user can play at their leisure without worrying about not spending enough time playing the game.

Selective game-play: One aspect of the micro transaction model is itemizing and separating game content that the player can pick and choose what they want. If someone doesn’t want to play raid content then they don’t have to buy the respective quest. This allows the player to fine tune what they want out of the game content.

Easier to develop content: In traditional MMOs new content can be categorized as game balance or bug fixes and new content for expansions/updates. Because of this many MMOS can go months without new content as the developers work on massive updates that will be featured in the next expansion or content patch.

With the F2P model developers can work on content that can be added in as soon as it is finished and tested instead of waiting for additional content to be done.

Moving on it’s time to talk about the issues with the switch:

Annoying your fan base: For many gamers it can feel like a slap in the face after spending so much money per month to find that if you would have waited it could have been free (for the most part); for life time subscribers this could really sting.

Lurking around on certain MMOs forums I’ve seen several posts asking if they should even bother subscribing in fear of the game going F2P at some point. This in some cases could become a self fulfilling prophecy.

Itemizing content: While one of the benefits of F2P is separating the content into pieces it can also be annoying to look at everything the game offers each with its own price tag. One of the more annoying designs of the F2P model is how everything, even quality of life items like additional inventory bags or character slots have a real life cost to them. Arguably spending a few dollars to unlock content per month may come out cheaper than the $10 or $15 monthly charge of MMOs. However it can start to rub gamers the wrong way to have their game content as a shopping list along with charges.

Balancing: While not a huge deal for PvE (Player vs environment) content, having F2P content in a PvP setting can be a slippery slope for balance. How far can someone who doesn’t spend additional money get? How powerful should the purchasable items be? These are important questions that need answers for or you will destroy the game balance.

A few years ago with Hell Gate: London when the designers announced the free to play and subscription based models for it everyone including yours truly moaned. There was a Penny-Arcade strip that highlights this which I can’t find right now.

There is another way of handling the F2P model and that is with still having a monthly fee. In these titles instead of just having micro transactions you offer a basic plan that has a lot of features and content locked which can be bought if wanted. Then you have the “deluxe plan” that gives you everything at a cost of a monthly charge.

This is an interesting system and is like having your cake and eating it too. The only problem I see is how paid content gets handled if the player decides to switch to the basic plan for a while. Or if while in the basic plan the player buys content that would be free with the monthly plan. Personally I’m not a huge fan of this as I would be someone who would go one way, either sticking with F2P or subscribing.

Star Trek Online is experimenting with combining both models with their “C store”. The game is currently 100% subscription based, however they have released additional uniforms, aliens and ships that you can spend additional money on. I’m split on this decision, from a design point of view as long as the options are purely cosmetic it is fine for balance, but on the other hand it does seem almost tacky to have two payment models used at the same time in my opinion.

Is the future of the MMO genre going to be F2P? Personally I don’t think so; if the MMO is popular enough the designers wouldn’t dream of switching to a F2P model (see WoW). This does seem like a more then capable alternative to generating revenue and I wonder if MMOs that did die; if they would have switched to this could they have been saved such as Auto Assault.

I think an interesting article idea would be to examine the micro transaction craze and how it has affected MMOs both from the designer’s perspective and from the players. I would bow out of this as I don’t play enough MMOs or games that have micro transactions to give a thorough look at it.

Josh.

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We’re coming to the home stretch with just two parts remaining. For this part I’m going to focus on what you’ll be doing in the various towns and how the world map works.

Within each town you’ll find the same services starting with the hunter’s guild. This is where you’ll get side quests, the quests themselves are linked to the specific chapter if you end the chapter before completing them then they will be lost. These quests range from killing specific enemies, to getting specific items. Rewards come in the form of items and sometimes weapon parts, along with hunter points. For every 100 hunter points you earn you’ll receive a reward of additional items.

There are three types of shops you can visit; the general store has basic items which can also be used for crafting. Sometimes the shop may offer a weapon that you can buy for a lot of rubies (in game currency). The scrapper’s purpose is to break down items for components that can be used in crafting. Each item costs a fee and the game is nice enough to tell you what items should be sold, which ones should be broke down and which ones should be used in crafting.

Finally the tinkerer is where you’ll create new items, as the game progresses more available options will become open. This is where the majority of your parts and accessories will come from and it can become pricey. Some parts require items dropped from enemies in the field while others will need other weapon parts to create.

I notice that towns had different stocks for shops and the tinkerer’s options also changed by a town by town basis. Some towns have a place that you can rest (the home town has your base which also serves this purpose), resting will recover full health and refill your hero gauge.

The world map itself is hex based, you can move through any open hexes and time does progress while moving. When it is dark out the encounter rate for enemies will increase and the people wandering around in safe areas will change. Certain hexes on the map will have a white icon appear next to their name at the bottom of the screen, this represents safe hexes that you won’t have to worry about fighting. The world itself takes place in a tower with elevators allowing you to travel to different floors.

When you first get to the world map you will notice that a lot of hexes are covered in white, this goes with the story that these hexes are not powered and need to be charged up to access. In RoF you can place down your own hexes on to the map, each type of place able hex is like a Tetris piece.

There are three types of hexes you can place, the first are clear hexes. These are used to just open up the world and you’ll be using them the most out of three. Next are colored hexes, they come in variations of shape and color. Colored hexes create an area of influence around that color and are vital for terminal use which is coming up in this entry.

The last type is station hexes. Unlike the previous two that can be found off of enemy drops, station hexes can only be obtained from story missions and trading in five same colored hexes to get one station hex. The station hexes serve two purposes, first they create a rest and save zone where ever you place them. Second they can be used to create an area of influence of that specific color anywhere that you place them. The only limit for station hexes is that they can only be placed on safe hexes.

For the other two types of hexes there are certain limitations to where you can place them. You can only place a hex that one part is either adjacent to or on top of an already powered hex. Also you cannot have any parts of the hex piece not on a hex, such as having some being blocked by a wall or space in the floor.

Besides progression there are two other reasons for powering up the hexes. Certain hexes have items that you will obtain for powering them up, you won’t know until you powered them up. These items range from basic stuff, to clothing for your characters to bezel shards.

Second we have terminals which are a part of advance play. Terminals occupy certain hexes on the map and they have an effect to give out. From increasing experience to lowering enemy encounter rate and so on. To activate a terminal you must have enough same colored hexes both covering the terminal and adjacent to it as determined by the quota shown above the terminal on the map.

Once the quota has been met, all those colored hexes next to the terminal and any more you add will give out the effect. Also if you cover the entrance of a dungeon with an effect, that effect will spread to the entire dungeon. You can also spread effects across floors by covering the elevator with the hex. The use of terminals can make your life easier but it will require a lot of work to gather the needed hexes.

Lastly I want to talk about special hexes that you’ll travel to. The first are hexes marked with exclamation points, these represent fights for side quests that you’ll need to do to complete the quest. If the fight is too much you can retreat back to the world map.

Hexes marked with traffic cones are required fights. These are used for both story progression and side quest progression used to block your path. You can run away from these fights if you want but to open the hex up you’ll have to beat all enemies.

Finally there are dangerous encounters marked by a red hex. These are tough battles either with huge groups of enemies or a few high level ones. Beating these fights will usually earn you useful items or bezel shards. However unlike the other fights you cannot run away from these. It is a good idea to save your game before trying these in case you get stuck in an impossible fight.

We’re almost done, for part 5 I’ll be giving out advance tips and giving my overall impression of RoF.

Josh.

Links to previous parts:

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

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