A free-form list of thoughts. These are not necessarily suggestions for allacrost; some are lessons learned from it, some aren't, and some just aren't applicable. I'm not trying to go on a rag here and suggest we change course. I'll append to this whenever I feel like it.
- I would definitely do what diablo 3 looks to be doing with their map system. I'm not certain how it works, but my interpretation is that Diablo 3 has a number of what amount to sub-levels. They're little square-shaped levels, maybe about the size of our current town or cave level. These individual sub-levels are hand-made, but they have a set of various standardized entrances/exits that is much smaller than the number of sub-levels. The sub-levels are then randomly arranged together in any way such that the entrances/exits still fit.
It has the best of both worlds; because it's macroscopically randomly put together, it gives a huge 'shot in the arm' for replay value. But at the same time, because it's microscopically hand-made, it doesn't suffer from the usual artificiality that "random map generators" so often suffer from. It does lack the upside of "not having to design levels" that random map generators would provide, but at the same time, random map generators themselves first have to be written, and it does considerable time to write one that doesn't suck.
- I would probably do what zelda: ALttP did to prevent potion spam. Zelda had a 4 potion max, and thus capped the influence they can have on a fight. At absolute most, they dilate your health by 400%. Unlike typical RPGs where long boss fights are about "keeping the party alive, and relying on a more or less constant subtraction of health from the baddies till they keel over". Typical RPGs such as chrono trigger can effectively boost your party's HP used in a battle by about 10,000%.
I also thought it was really, really clever for Zelda to allow having different items in the bottles. Choosing what you put in the bottle was a fun game mechanic, because they each had very different effects you had to choose between. Also being able to actually scoop water into the bottle, and pour it out on something, was a brilliant and fun thing in Minish Cap (a pity it was more of a gimmick than a core game mechanic). Water in a jar could be used for so many puzzles. Hell, it could even be used for combat (as either a water-spell reagent, or as a literal weapon against fiery/hydrophobic enemies, such as dousing and short-circuiting a robot). It probably could be workable in combat if it was truly as easy to replenish as it was in zelda (simply find any water and scoop it up).
- In recent builds of D3, they appear to have reverted to what old-school games like zelda did with gold, and health. To grab (gold and health) items, you just walk over them. Clicking on each individual bit of gold sucked in D2. A very similar issue happens with TB-RPGs; chrono trigger did it right (you automatically just -get- all the loot, no grabbing required). Curiously; another game that was otherwise excellent; the avernum/exile series did it wrong early on, in that you had to actually grab all of it. They quickly moved to an "auto-grab-all-gold" key, but the fundamental design still griefed when you had to micro all sorts of other equipment, and stayed that way across the rest of the series.
A discussion area for general design issues that staff would like detailed feedback on.
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