Thinking Aloud - An idea for making computer RPGs more accessible

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willpell
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Thinking Aloud - An idea for making computer RPGs more accessible

Post by willpell » Sun Aug 05, 2018 8:05 pm

When I'm online listening to podcasts or something, and I need a mindless activity to keep my eyes and fingers busy, I have yet to find a better one than playing "2048" over and over. But I'm not writing just to ask for a better use for my spare time; I'd be perfectly capable of figuring it out on my own if I really cared enough to bother looking. Instead, I'm going to explore an idea that just occurred to me, with regard to one of things I wish I could be doing instead. Having come to the public library so that I can access the Internet, where all the media I don't currently own (automatically more interesting to me than anything I do have home access to, courtesy of the Greener Grass Effect) is at my fingertips for as long as they're open, I find myself sitting here and wishing that I could play Final Fantasy V, which I have on my home computer. Even if there was a way to play it online for free while keeping the sound off, I'd be unable to maintain my own party and make progress in character-building, unless I logged into some sort of user account, which I wouldn't want to do for the sake of a trivial amusement like this. The game is boring both at the beginning, when you haven't learned any Jobs yet and your characters can't do anything but Fight or Use Item (and they have almost no items, including only basic weapons which aren't even fun to look at when you swing them), and also at the end, when you have mastered so many Abilities and learned so many Magic spells and such, and become so godly powerful in general that you can destroy virtually any enemy, while at the same time the enemies you're up against are so deadly dangerous that they still pose a threat to you, meaning that you basically end up needing to "cheat" somehow or else just play "rocket tag" until you end up with a TPK. Neither of these playstyles are very appealing to me; all the fun is in the midgame, where you're progressing toward a self-chosen goal of mastering the particular Jobs you've chosen to focus on, achieving one landmark after another as you progress through the storyline, and choosing how you want to overcome obstacles that aren't possible to simply brute-force your way past. All of this requires a level of investment which pretty much precludes the kind of zero-investment stuff I want to do while listening. Kind of a catch-22, right?

The solution occurred to me, as a thing which could in theory exist, and transform the very robust combat system of a game like FFV into a "drop in and play" experience, which would be satisfying in the way that 2048 is, but much deeper and more multifaceted. The key would be to use a "challenge rating" type system, which in a pinch could just be Enemy Level as it exists within the game, with a small range above or below your party's own level to keep it from being entirely predictable. In this way, the computer could generate a party of characters, with some plausible randomly-selected set of Job Abilities and items and spells, and then also generate a group of enemies that appropriately fits that group's Level and amount of equipment. You could choose those levels with a few clicks, or let the computer serve up something totally random, and presto - you get to fight a battle without having to build up the game that it belongs to. No saving your game, no logging into an account, just get a random fight with a random party of characters, and figure out how best to make use of them. You could simulate the attrition effect of long-term play by having multiple fights back to back, or you could just soup up the enemies to be more potent, so that they resemble "boss" fights which are so deadly that you have to use every resource available to you, just to have a chance.

Maybe I'm reinventing the wheel here; it's entirely possible that exactly the thing I'm wishing for already exists, and I just don't know where to find it. More likely, maybe I'm the first person, and the last, to think this was a good idea. Whatever; I was proud of myself for coming up with a solution to my self-imposed problem, and I thought I'd share, just on the off chance anyone is interested. If not, well, I feel like I used my time well, explaining the idea to myself if not to anyone else. That's all for now; good day folks.

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