Replayability in a CRPG?

Today’s question is: does make sense to have replayability in an indie CRPG ?

After venturing deep inside the crystal castle to discuss with the supreme wizard of gameplay design face to face (that’s me looking into a mirror), I’ve come to this conclusion: No.

Let me elaborate. With a visual novel or dating sim, or even life simulation like Spirited Heart, having a gallery of several different endings could make sense. Since it’s part of their gameplay: replaying the game choosing a different path, job, skill etc. But a decent RPG should have hours and hours of fun!

Story-based RPGs like Planet Stronghold can last quite a lot of time: I am now writing the part where you venture into the wastelands, and some battles can even lead to “game over”, but in general if you lose a battle you can retry in most cases. This means that you can spend 15-20 minutes in a battle and lose it, and retry with a different party configuration / approach. Even assuming that you will win all battles at first attempt, right now there are already 30 battles in the game. Multiply 30 battles for 4 minutes each (4 minutes is an insane low amount of time, totally unrealistic!) and that makes already 2h of gameplay just for the first 3 chapters (a really low estimate as I said, since doesn’t include dialogues either). The final game will have 10 chapters.

What does this means? It means that this game once finished can last 20-25 hours or even more, like commercial AAA games. I know that SOME people probably replayed Dragon Age or Mass Effect to see different endings, but how many really? I never did that, because I don’t have the time, but even if I had it, after playing the whole game from beginning, I don’t think I would like to replay it from start.

As indie, making CGs is expensive. The ones of Planet Stronghold will be absolutely beautiful, probably the best one ever seen in one of my games. If each ending corresponds to a single CG (like happens with my other games), most people aren’t going to see them all, and that’s a pity. I feel like wasting my money for content that only a minority will be able to see.

So, I’m thinking what to do. Those CG were intented for the romance endings, so each CG would be Joshua or Lisa with one of those characters (won’t say which ones but you can guess). I thought about two possible solutions:

1) I was thinking instead if to integrate them in the story, like The Witcher did (a CG in certain specific point of the plot, with voiceovers, I think that worked really well) or 2) at least make it possible to see them allfrom a certain point of the game.

For example, while each character relationship will influence how well he/she fights into the battle, at a certain point of the plot you will be able to save and from that point you can reach any possible romance ending, no matter what you’ve done before. That way at least player could have only to replay something like the last 2 chapters or so.

I think this solution might work well and that’s the one I’m probably going to adopt, since I want everyone to be able to see all the various endings without having to replay from start.

Obviously, since you pick the gender at beginning of game, if you want to see the ending of the opposite gender you WILL have to restart from scratch with that one 🙂

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12 Responses to Replayability in a CRPG?

  1. DaFool says:

    One thing to remember is that I don’t think people will replay a crpg immediately (unless they’re aiming to get all trophies/achievements). Probably the next time they play the game, then they choose different options if they feel like it.

    Event CGs embedded in the story/plot seem more like it, but also don’t discount ending CGs as well… maybe save them for the ‘main’ endings (unless there’s a huge number of endings).

    There are many JRPGs which have Gallery options but most of them are just the usual sprite variations and backgrounds. A few chibi events, usually. The one that stood out to me the most due to its efficient use is Atelier Rorona, it only had a few Cgs but they were all special: depending on whether you choose a male or female shop assistant, you will only unlock half of the associated event CGs. As for the ending, there’s only a few (maybe 3?) so the really gorgeous ending CG made sense, especially for a normal or true ending.

    • admin says:

      Well the solution I picked is a sort of mix, meaning that you need still to replay the game from beginning if you want to see the romance ending between the other gender. I suspect many people would do that (even as male player I would want to see the ending of Lisa :D). Unfortunately my culture of JRPG is very limited since I don’t play JRPG from the PS1 times 🙁

  2. Zerix-kun says:

    Well, when there is ‘replayability’ in a CRPG, it usually isn’t different enough for me to want to replay the game immediately. I usually put it down for a while (a couple months usually) and play another game or two. Then I replay it, having forgotten enough minor details to not have the experience be boring.

    But then again, there are always those games that you can just play over and over because you just love it so much.

    Still, I like the idea of making it easy to get the different endings instead of making us search for them. I still might replay it. XD

    • admin says:

      Well in my case I have restarted various RPG, if I felt I picked wrong class/race. But once I get to a certain point, like after hours of play or particularly tough battles, I absolutely don’t want to start over 😀
      In my case you’ll have to start over only if you pick another gender and I think it’s acceptable.

  3. Jake says:

    It’s a bit of a word-usage thing, perhaps, but… it seems to me that really, replayability should definitely still be a goal for this kind of game! But when you talk about CG-collecting you’re not talking about “replayability” really, you’re talking about “cheap enticements to replay when you wouldn’t otherwise”; replayability comes simply from your game being fun enough in and of itself that the player wants to go through it again regardless of whether or not you’re trying to play on their OCD.

    Maybe if you’re relying on information gain (e.g. mystery and detective work) to give the player their ‘fun’ you might have a genuinely-fun game that people don’t want to play a second time (because they know whodunnit) and have to resort to things like CG galleries to entice players to go around again, but in other cases, just make the game fun to play and people will want to replay it anyway! And if your game isn’t fun to play, then a lot of people will probably abandon it part-way through regardless of how many different endings to collect it has…

    I’ll probably still be playing R-Type in another twenty years, and that doesn’t give me a CG gallery /or/ a music room!

    • admin says:

      Well of course I AM biased 😀 But while testing the game I like to play the fights, I really enjoy them. So if you, as player , like those fights is very likely you’ll replay the game to fight more.
      I think my solution to have to restart if you pick another gender is good: so you can replay two times and obviously if you’re smart you pick two different classes so you can see the differences in fighting with a super psionic or a super sniper (since your character is the one that has highest chances to reach the maximum levels).
      Surely once you know who is the Marada Queen, what is planning to do the Prince, who is sending the signal that makes the robot go rogue… you’ll lose some excitement but that’s normal I think.

      Anyway if the game does well (I hope so) I can always do some add-on / DLC for it 🙂

  4. Ellume says:

    When I play a game I enjoy, especially if it is a story heavy game like a VN, then I usually try to read/see all the endings. I like to check out the different possibilities and/or the alternative stories regardless of CGs. But I would be lying if I didn’t enjoy those CGs a lot when I get them.

    From the sounds of it your going to have a specific spot in the story where you choose which relationship your character will be in and if you save there then you can try all 3 possible relationships for your gender. I’m wondering how this will play in with the relationship sliding bar, because if I play through and make one potential lover really hate my character would I still be able to get their relationship ending? And if I can then what is the point of the sliding relationship bar?

    Now even having said that I do actually like the sounds of having a branch in the story where you can save and explore each ending. It means not having to go through the whole story to explore all endings. But it also does mean your choices throughout the game have less impact at least in regards to relationships. So some ups and some downs.

    • admin says:

      Yes you’re right. I am thinking if have the relationship affect somehow the hero’s battle performance.
      I really want to have a point in the game where people can say “ok now I CAN (since is optional) start the romance plot”. Imagine if you play 4-5h and you screw badly with a specific hero and you cannot romance him/her anymore… probably realistic, but I can see how this could piss off some players (since they’ll have to restart the game anyway to get the opposite gender’s endings).
      So yes, I need to find a way to make that relationship value affect the gameplay somehow… any suggestion is welcome of course!
      An idea I had is that if you reach the max relationship, you can start some hero-specific subquest, which is independent from you romancing him/her ? Like you can help him/her somehow but still remain only a friend?

  5. Ellume says:

    Following in the same line of thought that you suggested here is an idea: Higher relationships unlock special dialog as you go through the game. Like perhaps when you get 70 relationship with someone then somewhere in the game they tell you a bit more about themselves or their past. Then at 80 they open up a little more. 90 they unlock some special quest for them. and perhaps at 100 relationship you get a little bonus ending, not extra CG or anything but more like a short dialog of them a few years later.

    Another thing you could do that is similar is reacting differently through the main story at points based off their relationship. Where they would normally react one way, perhaps with higher relationship they are nicer, defend you more, or talk more about the situation perhaps it would even be the trigger event for them to say a little about themselves.

    • admin says:

      Interesting, some really good suggestions 🙂 I like the idea of unlocking some extra stuff, like a specific quest for each character with a reward (items or even only some extra dialogues).

  6. Igor Savin says:

    You’ve almost sold me the game already :).

    The only open question left – what kind of DRM are you planning to use?

    • admin says:

      During the alpha/beta version I’ll have a simple online activation (enter your email once, and done). I have to see if to keep that one on the final release or just do a simple fullversion download 🙂

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