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Discussion Innovative new mechanics or ideas in games, big or small

PixelKnight

Observing the process
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RPGs, and usually turn-based ones, are occasionally accused of not changing much as a genre over the years. It’s not a criticism that carries any weight when you play a lot of them and dig into the intricacies of their combat systems, but it’s something I’ve often found to be an interesting illusion- the pacing of combat in something like Octopath is very different to manouver-on-the-field games like Trails.

However, it’s not really combat and how the pacing is managed and how different series do it that I want to talk about here, as much as, while playing Eiyuden Chronicle, one of the things that's really stuck with me is a change to party formation that I hadn’t seen before.

You have 3 types of party ‘slot’ for a total of 10.
The first six are your main battle party of six characters in two rows. Tanks and melee DPS types up front, spellcasters and archers in the back, you know the drill. But you also have a single slot for a support character. These are often characters who are non-combatants, academics, diplomats, servants, traders, craftspeople, etc, giving bonuses like ‘get more relevant resources from x supply point’ or ‘gain the ability to reform party at save point’ or ‘get more money after combat’. However, these aren’t always just your non-combatant allies. Some characters can be fielded as both in the main battle party, or as the support slot, the latter usually showing off what they are good at outside combat. It’s really interesting, as it gives a multi-faceted view of the less ‘I’m all about killing stuff’ characters.

The last 3 slots are really what inspired me to make the thread though. They are called ‘attendant’ slots, and they allow you to have up to 3 of your characters with the party, not contributing to combat or anything else, but counting as present for story and progression and quest purposes. Bearing in mind that Eiyuden, like Suikoden before it, has you recruiting a hundred heroes of which the majority can go adventuring with you. Sometimes you need X in the party to recruit Y. And whenever you reach a new area, you’ll often have mandatory new characters with you as local guides or important local heroes you need to help before they’ll join. But let’s say you’ve got a battle party that’s working really well, that you’ve put a lot of time and cash into sorting out their equipment and runes (extra skills and spells etc). You don’t have to kick one or more out to add some local new character that isn’t well equipped and that you aren’t particularly interested in levelling up. And that’s really cool.

Not only that, but all support and attendant characters appear in the game when you’re talking to people, keeping things natural- of course x is with you, they’ve been in the back the whole time.

It’s a set up that works really well for the game, allowing you complete control over who is fighting, who is levelling up, and who is just with you as you were told they had to be for the next dungeon.

Anyway, what’s your favourite new mechanic in an rpg or any other game that you hadn’t seen before? Doesn’t have to be the first time it’s occurred (it’s not like I’ve played everything), but something that made you think ‘yeah that’s a really good idea!’
 
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I remember playing Radiant Historia and enjoying the grid system used in battles. That made enemy encounters really enjoyable and not a chore.
 
I remember playing Radiant Historia and enjoying the grid system used in battles. That made enemy encounters really enjoyable and not a chore.
Yeah I liked the element of many attacks allowing you to shunt enemies around on the grid, in order to get them perfectly lined up for an AoE attack by someone else, that was very pleasing to pull off
 
Another one I really liked in one of the more recent SMT games (I can’t remember which one, I think it was Apocalypse?). And that was that, sure, you can level up and merge demons and give new skills to the result. But now you are rewarded for giving demons elementally appropriate ones with them gaining a small buff to the spell. So, sure, you could give King Frost a fire spell because you are tailoring the team for an elemental spread. But if you give them an ice spell, it gets a bonus next to it as of course King Frost is naturally more proficient at them. It’s not enough of a bonus to make you think ‘I should never do anything else’. But it feels like a small boost for choosing what’s thematically right and characterful and more likely over what’s more efficient. And I love that.
 
Great thread PixelKnight! I’ll give two for now both from RPGs.

For an old example that really caught my attention at the time, were Craft Points / CP in Trails in the Sky. The whole gimmick with CP is that it is a super elegantly designed resource that rises as you give and take damage. From there you can either use it to use your party member’s crafts that are abilities and attacks unique to each character or horde it. If you horde it to 100 CP, you’ll have access to an S-Craft that lets you immediately interrupt turn order whenever you want to unleash a limit break. The damage of the S-Craft further increases if you store up to 200 CP. There is a lot of push and pull then with this mechanic as it’s a resource that can be used for many different tactics and is made more interesting since you bring a party of four along in combat and thus must manage and take advantage of each character’s CP pool. It doesn’t come up too often in other RPGs and often the implementation isn’t as elegant as they usually don’t include the turn interruption element, but it really feels like a timeless mechanic.

One more, and I’ll keep this one brief, I wanted to pick something from a modern game from this year and since the thread title shifted to be more broad this is perfect. In Like A Dragon Infinite Wealth this year there is a dedicated “Hello / Aloha” button as you are walking around Hawaii. Lots of games have hello buttons, but this one is even better because there are NPCs that you can befriend simply by waving hello to them regularly. The NPCs spawn around similar locations so you can look forward to encountering your friends again as you roam the city. There’s of course Personality point rewards tied to saying Aloha which powers up some of your abilities, but the real reward to me is to see the town fill up with your friends. I just thought it was a cool way to make NPC crowds more interesting than usual.
 
I know copying ideas can be considered lazy, but sometimes I long for an RPG to straight up copy the battle system from Final Fantasy XII. It was so much fun to spend time tinkering with your party to make it as optimized as possible and then just set it loose, especially with the fast-forward function, That stuff was ahead of its time.
 
I know copying ideas can be considered lazy, but sometimes I long for an RPG to straight up copy the battle system from Final Fantasy XII. It was so much fun to spend time tinkering with your party to make it as optimized as possible and then just set it loose, especially with the fast-forward function, That stuff was ahead of its time.
The gambit ‘program your characters’ system, yeah. You can see echoes of it in Unicorn Overlord, that was really fun as you can really get lost in the specifics of ‘I have an anti-flier sword so target fliers first, prioritising those with the lowest hp if there’s more than 1, but not if an ally is under 25% health and needs a heal instead’. I get lost in that stuff, I’m a total nerd for optimising that shit :D
 
Great thread PixelKnight! I’ll give two for now both from RPGs.

For an old example that really caught my attention at the time, were Craft Points / CP in Trails in the Sky. The whole gimmick with CP is that it is a super elegantly designed resource that rises as you give and take damage. From there you can either use it to use your party member’s crafts that are abilities and attacks unique to each character or horde it. If you horde it to 100 CP, you’ll have access to an S-Craft that lets you immediately interrupt turn order whenever you want to unleash a limit break. The damage of the S-Craft further increases if you store up to 200 CP. There is a lot of push and pull then with this mechanic as it’s a resource that can be used for many different tactics and is made more interesting since you bring a party of four along in combat and thus must manage and take advantage of each character’s CP pool. It doesn’t come up too often in other RPGs and often the implementation isn’t as elegant as they usually don’t include the turn interruption element, but it really feels like a timeless mechanic.

One more, and I’ll keep this one brief, I wanted to pick something from a modern game from this year and since the thread title shifted to be more broad this is perfect. In Like A Dragon Infinite Wealth this year there is a dedicated “Hello / Aloha” button as you are walking around Hawaii. Lots of games have hello buttons, but this one is even better because there are NPCs that you can befriend simply by waving hello to them regularly. The NPCs spawn around similar locations so you can look forward to encountering your friends again as you roam the city. There’s of course Personality point rewards tied to saying Aloha which powers up some of your abilities, but the real reward to me is to see the town fill up with your friends. I just thought it was a cool way to make NPC crowds more interesting than usual.
Love this Aloha thing!
 
Triangle Strategy’s ‘convictions’ was another good one.

The main decisions in the campaign require you to balance (or choose between) Morality, Liberty, and Utility, Essentially being honor/justice, freedom/immediate bold action, and practicality/long term strategy. NPCs may prefer Liberty on a cause close to their heart, but Utility on something they think you should play the long game on, or Morality if sticking to or breaking an agreement means gains or risks elsewhere.

I loved that it’s not about simplistic good/evil decisions with clear ‘did the hero thing and then everyone clapped and said how wonderful I was!’ options. As the consequences for doing the ‘right’ thing according to one advisor can be severe, on top of the arguments from other advisors often being perfectly reasonable and ‘just’ choices too. It’s a strategy game with consequences for the story, you can’t save everyone with your limited resources and often it’s about making harrowing choices your main character can live with.

Reminded me of The Banner Saga in a way, that resource management combined with morality and leading a small army that’s under pressure?
 
Great idea for a thread :)

I don't play many RPGs, but I want to share the pinbal mechanic from Yoku's Island Express: It's a great way to make the world very fun to move through. At the same time, the fruits you earn in the pinball sequences allow you to unlock shortcuts and fast travel methods. Finally, the movement upgrades don't really affect your character, but the world is so well designed that they can be used in a lot of places where you didn't suspect initially. Playing PoP: The Lost Crown I had the problem that many of the upgrades you get are very situational so they are almost never relevant outside of the 3 or 4 specific places where they are required. For example, the chakram teleportation is not useful if there aren't any metal bars in your way. In Yoku it's the same thing, but the design helps integrate everything in a much better way. You need to find a exploding slug every time you need one, but it can be used in many ways and everywhere around you to destroy a barrier, or get over a ledge, or cross a gap in the floor...The chakram teleportation in PoP is just a key you put into the lock the moment you see it, but the exploding slugs in Yoka are instead a key that can also become a ladder, or a bridge, or...Getting this key is just the first part of a puzzle, the second part is finding how to use it. Initially the pinball mechanics seemed like they restricted movement too much, but in the end they were really amazing and gave you more freedom to decide how you want to move around the world than in something like PoP, where you're always following a very strict path.

BTW, I have never liked pinballs, but I fully recommend Yuk's Island Express to anyone who's looking for a good Metroidvania :)
 
I love the way Earthbound handles damage and HP. Attacks don't do all their damage instantly but instead the damage takes a while to diminish your HP number, kinda like one of those big boards with all the info at an airport. This means if you use your healing items smart/fast enough, you can outheal an otherwise fatal attack. I don't think I've ever seen any other game do it like that.
 
I know copying ideas can be considered lazy, but sometimes I long for an RPG to straight up copy the battle system from Final Fantasy XII. It was so much fun to spend time tinkering with your party to make it as optimized as possible and then just set it loose, especially with the fast-forward function, That stuff was ahead of its time.
The Gambit system is the reason why XII sits high on my list of Final Fantasy games. It’s so good.
 
I know copying ideas can be considered lazy, but sometimes I long for an RPG to straight up copy the battle system from Final Fantasy XII. It was so much fun to spend time tinkering with your party to make it as optimized as possible and then just set it loose, especially with the fast-forward function, That stuff was ahead of its time.
Dragon Age Origins copied FFXII's gambit homework to the extent that western press seemed to think DAO invented them.
 
I mentioned Unicorn Overlord upthread for using FFXII’s gambit system, but its main combat system is worth a mention too. In a genre that already has dozens of both real-time strategy games and turn-based SRPGs, it found something new in a balance between how fast units move in real time, and a sort-of pre-programmed turn-based combat when they clash. When two formations meet, they fight a single round of combat, but each unit within the formation may have multiple attacks and multiple passive/defensive/reactive moves to make, all of which are triggered according to character speed and conditions being met.

So the complexity is in setting up your formations (which start simple but become addictive to expand on), but a combat round has so much going on that you wouldn’t want to control it manually any more than you’d want to give orders to an individual troop in Total War. Each character might have a dozen programmed options and up to 50 characters on the field in up to 10 formations. Fortunately they all come with pretty reasonable basic programming if you can’t be bothered to tinker with it. But it’s there for the people that love it (like me).

Anyway, just thought I’d mention it as it only just occurred to me that it met the thread criteria.

For another SRPG one, Rondo of Swords on DS also added something new, in that it’s entire turn-based combat system is based on movement, and interacting with friendly and enemy units on a path. So, a cavalry unit might move 7 squares and move through a friendly infantry trooper for a defence boost first, then charge through two enemy for heavy damage and then back through a friendly priest for a heal. Meanwhile, it’s countered by heavy infantry units having a shield ability that stops units moving through them, or allows them to react to a unit moving past them. Again it’s one of those things where it’s got a lot of depth even if it looks complex at first. I headed into it after Fire Emblem and FFT, looking for something new, and it took me a good few hours to adjust to it, but it definitely was memorable and viable as a tactics game, even if it didn’t always make a lot of sense and hasn’t really been followed up since. It’s one of those games where whenever people say that SRPGs are fairly similar it springs to mind and makes me want to talk about it :)
 
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Rondo of Swords on DS also added something new
I should give that another shake, that game kicked my ass.

One mechanic I always like talking about is the difficulty slider you see in both The World Ends With You and Kid Icarus: Uprising. The concept is very simple-- make things harder for yourself, the better loot you get. In TWEWY, lowering your level increases drop rates, which makes farming materials a lot less annoying. If you can beat a boss at level 1, you're basically guaranteed to get their special drop.
 
Balatro has many interesting innovations, but the ability to skip stages in favour of a reward leads to some very interesting decisions.
 
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