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Article - 'The Basis for Existing' by Mateui

An item about Game Design posted on Jan 14, 2004

Blurb

To add or not to add? That question will be answered within - by the process of self-examination, and self-questioning.

Body

The Basis for Existing
By: Mateui

That’s what it really comes down to.

You may be wondering what this article is about. The title is sort of confusing at first, but don’t blame me, I couldn’t think of an interesting title, so I made it seem intelligent sounding..

Anyway, let’s get back to business. Think back to any RPG that you have played in the past, or any other genre of game. (In this article, we will be focusing mainly on RPGs). Did you play the game for a few hours, and all of a sudden, the game’s atmosphere changes, as an addition is made? You wonder, why is this here? Well, if you have, than that game did not create a basis of existing for that item.

This I what will be discussed and improved upon in this article, dealing primarily with RPGs in mind.


To Have or Not to Have:

That is the question. When you are in the planning stages of creating your own RPG, you likely decide what to include inside the various maps, such as NPCs, monsters and mini-games. But have you ever questioned yourself why you are adding this specific types of elements?

We will now briefly discuss some sections within an RPG where reasons should be added to justify additions.

Monsters:
This is the biggest area that is lacking reason in RPGS, in my opinion. Too many times, you’re walking in a forest, and you get into a battle with a poisonous flower monster. Sure, you can defeat it in battle, but why is it even in the game?

Most games, even that of professional ones go severely wrong in this aspect. Many monsters have no reason of being in the game, they’re just used to rack up the number of total playing time.

Why are the monsters in the game? Why do they attack the Hero? What is your reason for including them?

Ask yourself those questions. Monsters need motives too – not all go out looking for battles. And you shouldn’t just use them to make your game seem longer – although I don’t really see a game that doesn’t do that.

Special Entities:
Special people or creatures also need reasons for being included within the game. Why are there goblins, elves, dragons, or phoenixes in your game? Are they simply there because they exist in other games? (Don’t be a Lemming!) Do they have a special purpose? Why is the Hero and other humans friends or enemy with them?

To know this, you need to plot out what happens before the time in the game. Create some history – make world events, wars, etc. something that would change the future and the political outcomes at the time where the Hero is existing.

Mini-Games:
This is more flexible than the other sections, because most mini-games do not have to have a reason for existing, but there are cases in which they do. There are 2 classifications of mini-games. You have your one-time mini-game, and your continuation mini-game.

One-time mini-games are games where you take a break from the story (but not always, as these type of games could be placed in the way of the story), and where you expect to see that game once.

Continuation mini-games are more likened to games that continue over a period of time. Examples include those collect the items around the world, and give them to someone once finished, games – as well as those that involve special entities in a manner. (Think the Chocobo treasure digging game, found in FFIX)

Your continuation mini-games are the ones that need a basis for existing. I’ll take that Chocobo game from FFIX. Now, that was a game that actually had a reason of being there, for some extent. Playing FF games gets you acquainted with the many creatures, including Chocobos. You learn that they are breed and used as a means of transportation and racing, as well as finding buried items. As you can see, Chocobos well have a basis of existing, and are not one of those, “let’s add it to the game because they look cute” things. (Although they are...) ^_^!

Villians:
Now this is the most important section, as it will be structured around the story, and the centre of most conflict. Most RPGs have villains, and thus reasons for including them, and making their actions is needed.

The biggest thing that you need to worry about is the oldest question: “Why?” Yes, why is the villain, the villain? Why is he doing what he is doing? Why does he capture/torture/kill people? What is he trying to accomplish? (That wasn’t a “why” question, but, who cares.. I wasn’t expecting you to notice anyway.. :D)

Now, I could spend many paragraphs taking about motives for your villain(s), but that wouldn’t fit in with this article. Perhaps another article will discuss this in the future.


Conclusion:

Just ask yourself why you are adding something into the game? Assess your motives, and change accordingly. Add some history if needed, and reveal it in certain moments within the game. Always do this, and your game will be very reasonable! (Hahahahahaha, I think that I will just end this article on that note. ^_^!)


- Mat