A note before we begin. There will be some changes around here in the coming weeks the first of which is Monday updates from here on out. This is to give me an extra two days to work on a journal. If it doesn’t work, we’ll go back to Friday updates.
Man I’ve been going on with games for a while, haven’t I? I’ll have to change that soon.
Recently Final Fantasy All the Bravest came out for the iOS which is not to be confused with other exclusively mobile titles such as Final Fantasy Dimensions, Airborne Brigade and the few ports that have made it over. Apparently those are quite decent and worth exploring if one has the means.
No this is the bad one of the bunch. If one could imagine all of the ways this mobile title failed in every possible way, it did so. And the worst part is, it didn’t even have to.
Conceptually this is a great game. Players use the iOS touch screen to not control just four party members but well over twenty, each representing a different job class. A simple touch or swipe and that character will attack with their own unique ability.
The problem is that when you boil the game down to it, this is all you do. Ever. You just swipe your characters as fast as you can while they automatically attack. Oh but wait, you can spend 99 cents to buy one of 35 custom characters from a former Final Fantasy game. And it’s random each time you buy.
Oh plus three DLC maps for 3.99. Oh and you can buy revive timers to revive your allies faster.
I think what we have here is quite literally the worst symptoms of the DLC concept. And this is from a guy who bought all of the Saints Row: The Third DLC. Granted on sale for seventeen bucks but I still did it. I didn’t buy the Penthouse pack though. That would have been a complete waste of money.
God help me when it comes to Mass Effect.
Anyway, this is by far the dumbest incarnation of the model of getting players to pay for more than the original value of the game. And it is clearly such a scheme. It can’t even be called a game at this point. Its actual money deriving schema outweighs what little gameplay it has to the point where it loses the term. Farmville has more gameplay.
The problem is, well it didn’t have to suck this bad. So… in the spirit of improvement I’m going to throw out there a series of revisions, improvements if you will, that can be made to Final Fantasy All The Bravest. This is for Square Enix, heck it’s for any start up game developer who wants to make their name off of a freeware game as the guys who made All The Bravest work.
So here we are a list of ways All The Bravest could be turned into an amazing mobile platform game.
1. Allow Players to decide what happens when they touch the character.
There’s two ways that this can be implemented: Before combat, or during by pressing start. Heck you might as well implement both. The idea of speeding up combat by touching characters isn’t a bad idea, but make it so that the player can at least decide what is done when that happens. Plus, by allowing that to be changed in mid-combat, you can actually take the ATB system to a much faster paced level that no other RPG possesses.
2. Allow some of the character options to not be attack commands.
Now if you follow traditional Final Fantasy thinking you’d believe that there are three options: Attack with a weapon, cast destructive magic, cast healing magic/items. By that logic, something like FF: All the Bravest makes a lot of sense since you can just cut out one third of combat options and make it all fight fight fight! But by doing that gameplay becomes repetitive and basically a race with the enemy as to who can attack faster. If you add even a healing option to white mage characters you can think much more tactically as now you have a reason not to use a healer until the moment calls for it. Now you have a reason for a character to not be pressed. I’d go on this more but it leads into other points I have.
3. Distinguish the Final Fantasy Classes even further than before.
Let’s take someone like the Geomancer. Traditionally a geomancer is immune to environment effects like damage floors and can cast geo magic which will use magic based on whatever map environment they are in that doesn’t cost MP. In a normal Final Fantasy game the player will have a smaller party so the Geomancer must be more combat oriented. Change that. Make the geomancer able to control what magic or abilities are dominant in the environment. Then suddenly, you have a character that can make fire magic stronger or healing spells better. This is just an example but if applied to all classes now you have the possibility of combination commands with a simple finger press. Because more characters are on the screen they must be more diverse in what they can do. This makes every character important but not always which leads me to my next point.
4. Allow different character formations.
In FF: All the Bravest you field all of your characters always, no matter what as the game gives no reason not to. However, if you have enemies that are much more intricate and complicated you can create reasons for players not to field a class. Then what you can do is group certain player classes so that they attack at once. Go back to my geomancer example. Say you have an enemy immune to physical attacks. Have a team consisting of a few caster classes and a geomancer. The geomancer makes it so that on his turn the map favours fire attacks. Then you can press the group of casters and they all use fire magic. Add a group of support mages, some that provide buffing spells to the entire party, some that heal all bound to a single finger press. Then, allow the player to save those formations in game so they can be improved upon.
5. Make the acquisition of past Final Fantasy Heroes part of challenge dungeons.
There’s a difference between an achievement paid for and one earned. I get that the idea is to make money but if you charged players even five dollars more and implemented the right features into a massive game you’d have the market by storm. Hell, Cut the Rope is free and they’re still adding levels. Because of that you have to add depth to justify players spending. If you make it really hard to acquire a favoured character, but optional, you’ll add the side-quest back to the game in a new innovative way which has much more tangible cost/reward balance then it’s ever been before.
6. Add a story.
The Final Fantasy Tactics games don’t allow for as much free-roaming between battles compared to the traditional series and yet it still has a story. Add one here too. In this instance you can even have branching path stories from battle to battle and explain why all these worlds are crossing over. Ideally don’t do the Dissidia whimsical deep metaphorical method. Following a story like that of Super Robot Wars where the worlds are combining and heroes are uniting to repel evil works really well. This is a rare instance where a simple action packed crossover works really well with occasional personality jokes.
7. Allow players to tweak their characters.
Now with a speed game like this with such a large cast I don’t think having the same level of Final Fantasy customization is ideal. More accurately equipment customization. In Final Fantasy there are items that raise your defense and attack and such but occasionally they can be supplemented by items that give you better evasion or the undead status. In this case make it so that as you advance and buy armour and weapons the characters are automatically equipped with the best gear at all times. You just have to buy it once for all applicable classes. However, leave an accessory slot for the player to otherwise modify or tweak the character. Thus it’s simpler to manipulate characters but the items can have a much greater effect.
8. Let mana regenerate naturally for spells.
Since we have characters that can be assigned different commands we can bring mana back in for mage characters. This time though, depending on the level the mana of a character regenerates continuously but at a fixed rate. Thus it’s easy to cast certain small spells repeatedly, but one large spell will put a character down for a good time. Thus, a greater level of strategy is added to casting magic, giving the player even more tactical considerations. You can even have accessory items that increase mana regeneration or allow that the character regenerates more as they level and/or with new equipment. But, the spells available just cost that much more.
9. Make the placement of units matter.
This is the last point I have and it is one of the elements that can only work as well as it can on a touch screen RPG. In Final Fantasy normal, the player is often limited to the front and back row placement and that’s the extent of tactical layout. In other tactical games it is more like a chess board where position and orientation matter. Here the game should meet halfway allowing mage units to sit safely behind a shield wall of fighter units depending on where the player wishes them to be. That’s just a basic formation, there can be others, such as having certain formations actually benefit the team based on how they are orientated. For example, if four melee classes are in a horizontal line they attack at once and do additional damage. Or, have it that if the mage classes are arranged in a circle they can combine spells.
I don’t have a degree in game design nor have I ever read a single book on game theory. Still, this only took me the better part of a day to concoct all of the possible improvements. Only a day! It was so simple I actually want to try making such a game for mobile devices or at the least give it to an indie company and just ask for credit.
It isn’t hard to make something worth what people play for. It isn’t even hard to make something they’d want to pay for. I guess Square Enix’s core developers no longer have such insight.
So too does this work exist.