Since I plan to create a computer role-playing game, I’ve been doing a little thinking lately about what makes them good. Although I don’t expect my first game to be a Final Fantasy killer, I do want to make the best game I can, and the first step is to define what that means and how to do it.
Here are six elements I think make for a good computer role playing game, in order of importance:
- Characters. Rich, believable characters with realistic desires and goals and well-written dialogue help draw the player in and give them a reason to care what happens. If you want to make the player feel something with your game, characters are the way to do it.
- Plot. The events of the game should be significant, even epic, so that the player feels like their actions matter. There should be high stakes, rich rewards, and dire consequences. There should also be a few plot twists to keep the story from being too predictable, but don’t go overboard — a plot that’s too convoluted is worse than one that’s too straight-forward.
- Combat. A good CRPG features a fun, interactive combat system with the occasional surprise. These days just selecting commands from a menu isn’t enough, there should be some other element of player interaction. Random encounters should be common enough to build the party’s power, but not too common — it’s no fun fighting random battle after random battle when all you want to do is get to the good stuff (the boss fight, plot advancement, treasure at the end of the dungeon, etc.)
- Graphics. The graphics should be colorful and distinctive, in a style suitable to the flavor of the game. Personally, I don’t care for the manga-style art used in many CRPGs, but that’s a matter of taste. For a high-fantasy game, the graphics should be clear and bright, while a dark post-apocalyptic RPG would probably be better served by a grittier style.
- Music. Like the art style, the music needs to be well-suited to the tone of the game, the nature of the storyline, and the current environment the characters are in. Exploring a dank, monster-infested dungeon may call for creepy music, while an unexpected death scene might need a somber dirge, and a grand palace should have something suitably dramatic. One important element is that the music not be too repetitive, as it will be playing over and over again anyway and can get boring or annoying quickly if you’re not careful.
- Sound Effects. Sound effects are not often done well, perhaps because there are so many other elements that are more important, but they’re worth paying attention to. An inappropriate sound effect or one which is re-used for many different things can be jarring, so it’s a good idea to make them different and as recognizable as possible.
These are the things that came to mind when I sat down to think about what to focus on in working on my game. By no means do I consider this list complete, or even necessarily correct. Think I missed something? Disagree with what’s on the list, or what order it’s in? Leave a comment and let me know!