I’ve made a lot of weird games over the years, but this is the only time I’ve been worried about it (ironically this is simultaneously one of the least weird games I’ve made). Partially it’s the commercial nature of this thing, but mostly it’s because the oddness is more about taking things away than it is about giving new things. Flagrantly defying genre conventions by removing things is just far more likely to make players think a game is missing something or unfinished, than it is to make them think it’s cool. So without further ado, here is the list of some of the things that worry me about this game that have nothing to do with development (that maybe also doubles as the pitch for this thing I guess):
1. Constant Party Building
Most RPGs with party customization lock you into that same party for the rest of the game. Even the hand full of dungeon crawlers that don’t, make it a hassle to change up your party composition by demanding you level up new characters from scratch, and have heavy penalties for respeccing characters. This game demands you build a new party every hour or so, sometimes even mid-game. It wants you to experiment and find ways to overcome challenges with smart party synergy. This is a direct and blatant contradiction to most RPGs that lean incredibly hard towards commitment. Most people want to marry a class and never try anything else (until perhaps a replay), this game is designed to not even let you do that.
This is dangerous both because it defies player expectations, and because balancing the game to require different classes for each scenario is hard to do right: people might just always pick the latest classes, guessing that they’ll be the ticket. And some combinations will inevitably just be so good that they overpower intended strategies (but hey good for you- now go beat the final boss early as a reward for breaking the game)
2. Horizontal Progression
Most RPGs lean incredibly hard towards rewarding players with exponential power gains. You start as a peasant and work your way up to a god slayer. People love the sense of progression. That’s fun and all, but it also means most RPGs become jokes difficulty wise by the end because you have to balance towards players who do the minimum effort, and players simply have too many options to ever blindside them. We don’t have that: you have to start from scratch at level 1 with every scenario.
Considering how many people play these things just to grind, that’s probably going to be a real turn off. To make up for it, players unlock new classes as the reward for beating scenarios and challenges. These aren’t direct upgrades, but they do give new options for dealing with things. Will it be enough? Probably not, people are resistant to learning new things.
3. No Map Scrolling
Every map in the game is a single screen. You don’t walk within it, either. There are still NPCs, objects, and monsters to interact with, but this is an incredibly limited setup to do in 2019 (or 2011). It’ll probably make a lot of people write off the game immediately. But it isn’t a technical limitation: by focusing everything on a single screen, everyone stays on the same page in multiplayer instead of scattering in 4 different directions and having no idea what’s even going on. A whole lot of people like that sense of freedom to mess around without others, and will hate this game.
It also benefits people playing by themselves, though. The focus of this game is to be a streamlined RPG. By limiting exploration so tightly, players won’t waste time just walking around vast spaces, or interacting with every box, or fighting the same monsters 10 times. This is, frankly, one of the most bloated genres in existence with every other game boasting about its 100hrs of playtime. I think that sucks, but considering every time a 20hr RPG gets released and genre fans lose their collective minds about it I’m not entirely certain that anyone else agrees.
In that same vein, the game is broken up into scenarios with no connected overworld whatsoever. I want players to be able to start up the game and have a complete experience, including a short story, in just 1-2hrs. Considering how popular wandering around vast, empty worlds collecting garbage for hours on end is these days, it’s another serious risk factor. The disconnected narrative with silent protagonists and minimal dialogue will also make a lot of people run away.
5. Turn Based Multiplayer
Turn based RPGs you can play with your friends online were basically unicorns when we started this thing in 2011. A few other games have cropped up since then where this is looking less like a risk, but it’s still likely to be something only a fraction of players touch. For whatever reason, the mere idea of playing a turn based RPG multiplayer was seen as absurd for a very long time. Which it shouldn’t be: being able to discuss the next turn or overarching strategies with each other is a fantastic social experience that you don’t really get out of action games where everyone can kind of just do whatever most of the time. But it still isn’t something most people care about.
6. Lives in an RPG
The game operates by giving players a certain number of “lives” for each scenario: die in battle, and you lose a life. Lose all of them and you have to replay the scenario from the beginning. This is a system that I expect to be wildly unpopular considering most people want a checkpoint before each and every battle these days. And frankly, I am so afraid of this reality that I will probably just include an easy mode that lets people do this. But the tension of losing progress, and the satisfaction of replaying a scenario with far more efficiency are elements that I genuinely think add something to the game and that I hope people will give it a chance. It’s honestly a pretty novel system for an RPG. But people are going to hate it, and possibly rage quit before even noticing the easy mode.