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    The eZine
  Tue Feb 02, 2010 9:48 pm
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Originally published in eZine 10

This is a blog post. To read the original post, please click here »

RPG Mechanics: Game Over

If you're on this forum, you know what a Game Over is (at least I hope you do) but I'm going to define it anyway because it'll make me feel smarter (don't judge me). A Game Over is a screen that pops up under certain conditions that causes the player to lose some progress. Game Overs are most prevalent in RPG's and Platformers, but even across these two genres they come in vastly different forms, and seeing as this article's about RPG Mechanics I'm going to limit this to only RPG Game Overs.

Let's start about Basic Game Over. Basic Game Over is the Game Over the dinosaurs invented because they had terrible hardware and had difficulty running Pac-Man. This usually occurs when you lose a battle in an RPG and causes you to fly back to the title screen... and start back up from your last save point.

No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No.



This method of Game Over is terrible for several reasons. The first is that RPG's very rarely autosave and often use savepoints. Now that's a problem in and of itself, as save points are obsolete systems only used because it'd have been too tasking on old hardware to allow you to save whenever you wanted. Now they're kept around as a poor design decision in order to allow for even more poor design decisions, they simply have no purpose- not even in preventing system abuse as Pokemon has proven that forcing a save before a particular event is handy a cure for it. Getting a Game Over in an RPG means going back to your previous save point, losing whatever progress you've gained since then, and having to start all over again. Yay.

The second reason is that you're punishing the player, which defies one of the most important risk and reward laws which I'll discuss some other time, but to summarize- the only one who should punish a player is another player (it makes more sense if you're into the competitive scene). You shouldn't ever penalize a player for failing, because they've already lost their time, effort, and options in failing. By showing a Game Over screen and sending them back to the start, you're penalizing them by a huge amount. The third reason is that it causes you, as the designer, to be more mentally susceptible to poor design decisions. You don't really want the player to see a Game Over... so let's make the basic enemies really weak. Well then you have enemies that aren't fun to fight. Well, let's compensate with bosses then, and just have a bunch of really hard bosses then, that'll help right? If your RPG is plot-based (it probably is) then you probably have cutscenes before boss battles, and if they're unskippable you fall into the trap that is making the player repeat a cutscene over and over while they cry their own organs because they've lost eight times.

But... how else do I handle a player dying?

There is a revolutionary idea that comes from ancient texts, scribbled upon cave walls in a secret location that nobody's ever dared to look. We call it the Arcade. The solution? It's the continue button that pops up whenever you lose, allowing you to jump back to what you were doing. Did you just lose against that overpowered boss? Press continue. Don't make it a half-reset, where they lose their items or MP or whatever, I mean a full battle reset. Let them try again. Do not show them the Basic Game Over screen. Adding just a Continue button evolves it from your Basic Game Over to your Proper Game Over. But be sure to ask if they really want to return to the title screen, because if they accidentally hit anything they're going to be angry.

If you don't want to do that, jump them back to the start of a room (which might be handy for bosses if you don't want flee-able ones). Send them to an Inn (which is still annoying, but they keep their progress). There are options, you simply have to utilize them.

Basic Game Overs are obsolete reminders of the T-Rex. They need to go. Yes, you might have to go beyond the bounds of RPG tradition, but RPG tradition has a bad tendancy to suck because the only reason half of it exists is because hardware was made out of tin cans back in the days. Sometimes, you need to break away from tradition. One step at a time. And I really hope your first step is that traditional Game Over screen because I hate those.

Article by Reygekan


This editor is dead against game over screens. They are only good in a few circumstances, usually if the game itself is simple enough to warrant one. Game over screens are fine in arcade games such as Bosconian, or Pacman, but in RPG games (which is what the majority of people here will be making) they just don't go. At all.

But what alternatives are there?

Well, the best thing to do would be to come up with your own death mechanic. One way would be with the following script by Mr. Smith:


This calls a common event upon death, allowing you to do whatever you want using just event coding! Terribly simple, but amazingly effective in the long run. In the end game over screens don't have to be the end-all.

Going back to the original article, this would allow you to add your continue, end game, whatever, to the original event which killed the player.

Sorry for dumping onto your article Rey, there was space left! :box:

In short, keep the grim reaper for fairytales and storybooks. ~


Posted under: Game Dev
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  Wed Feb 03, 2010 3:24 am
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Personally, while Game Overs can be a little annoying, they are also highly nostalgious. Let's face it, we are making old school RPG games (well, most of the people here are). If we wanted the best of everything we would be using better software, no? I at least, want to keep a retro feel to my game. Living in the past as it were. I like the nostalgia factor when playing new-style old-school games. That is, of course, my opinion.

.~*laura S fantastic*~.

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