Alright, so I thought I’d start this analysis off with Battle Magic. It was one of the more distinctive systems of the Game, so it’s a decent enough starting point.
Battle Magic was partially based on the magic system in a game called Chrono Trigger. It was a Super Nintendo RPG, and one of my favorites as a kid and even now. One of my first efforts at writing involved writing a corny fan fiction for a Chrono Trigger sequel. The game had four different magic types (Fire, Lightning, Water, and Shadow), and seven characters, some of whom had no magic and some of whom doubled up on one of the four. I didn’t think that was fair, so in my fan fic, I added three types, Sonic, Wind and Earth, to make up for the deficiency. When I started the Game up, I transported that concept over to make up the basis for Battle Magic.
Anyone who played was automatically assigned a magic type based on how I viewed their personality. Extremely independent types got Lightning, Shadow went to people who were focused on having really cool abilities, Water went to people comfortable with stable social situations while Fire was given to people who constantly tried to shake things up. Wind went to people who cared a lot about imagination and ideals, while practical people got Earth. Sonic, which was kind of a grab bag, went to people who wanted balance, or who were balanced themselves. It worked out alright, and gave me a pretty good mix of players and magic types.
I included a few other extra bits and pieces to it as well, though they didn’t all work out. I gave Battle Magic a weakness, so that if it was used at extremely close range it became as harmful to the user as it was to the enemy, and perhaps more so. I made it so magic could pass through friendly troops without harming them, and made it so that the players could learn new spells by using their old ones. There were a total of thirty one for each magic type, and each type had its own characteristic spell set. I made it so that you could run out of ‘shots’ of each spell, to encourage them to use them carefully. I even included combination techniques that two magic users could join forces to use, a kind of homage to similar techniques in Chrono Trigger.
Unfortunately, there were some problems with this system. First off, the players never used the combos, and they were soon dropped simply to avoid having to deal with them any more. A much more severe problem was the limit placed on the player’s progression. I’d set up the list of spells so that you had to progress in a linear fashion through them, which meant that it was more or less a grind for the players to earn each new spell. There was no real personalization of the techniques, and the players usually just wound up saying ‘I use my most powerful attack, then my next most powerful…’ and so on until they were out of spells. They didn’t really care about conserving their attacks or using them tactically, since spamming spells always rewarded them with advances towards the next level of spells, and most spells were just a standard blast attack. It just wasn’t as engaging a system as it could have been.
It didn’t help that between the seven types, I had more than two hundred spells to organize and remember. Keeping track of them all was difficult, and nearer the end even I lost interest in memorizing the exact effects of all but the highest level. What I needed was a more customizable system with interesting spells, one that allowed the player’s progress to be based on their own choices and encouraged them to be more selective in how they employed their powers.
Next time I’ll get into the details of how I am planning on fixing these flaws. I promise. :)