Panzer Dragoon Saga –
Panzer Dragoon Saga is one of my favorite role-playing games of all time. I’m one of the few lucky enough to have owned and played through this masterpiece of a game. Although the game is relatively short by RPG standards (my total game time clocked in at a little under 12 hours), it has some fantastic elements that I couldn’t resist borrowing for Saturday Morning RPG. The main element we took from Panzer Dragoon Saga is the way the game ranks the player for each battle.
In PDS, solving battles as quickly and efficiently as possible will garner you a battle rank. The better your rank, the more experience points you’ll receive. Other games have done ranking in this way, but PDS did it in a way that made me feel that obtaining a quick resolution to each battle was critically important. Final Fantasy XIII tried ranking (using stars), but the benefits to obtaining a high ranking just weren’t as clear (a higher ranking would restore TP, which for the better part of the game’s first ten hours is rarely even depleted).
In Saturday Morning RPG, just as in Panzer Dragoon Saga, a higher rank will give you more experience points and allow you to level up quicker. Rather than making the battle rank entirely dependent on speed, SMRPGs ranks are determined through looking at how much damage was dealt and taken by the player, as well as their speed in battle. These stats are then displayed to the user in G1 Transformers tech-specs style, and a rating from F – SSS is dealt out.
Final Fantasy X –
While Final Fantasy X is much maligned by hardcore Final Fantasy fans, I thought the game was pretty excellent. My best memories of the game involve strategically using the game’s visual battle queue, which shows when each person involved in the battle will get to attack next. Since I enjoyed the queue so much, we’ve cribbed it in SMRPG; however, where FFX showed several turns for each battler, SMRPG only shows one turn for each character. This is due to how the game handles attack speeds, and how enemies pick attacks. We can’t preemptively show where an enemy’s attack will land when it hasn’t been picked yet, since queue placement in SMRPG is relative to both the player’s/enemy’s speed as well as that of the chosen attack. In any case, the queue allows players to see when their attack will take place, and it should allow for some degree of strategic choice in battle.
Everyone played Pokémon, it is the ultimate “casual” RPG. I put casual in quotes because there really isn’t anything casual about Pokémon, it’s a hardcore RPG that somehow managed to break free of the genre’s stigmas and reach a mainstream “casual” audience. There’s two things about Saturday Morning RPG that have been heavily inspired by Pokémon.
First off, while the game is a hardcore RPG by every definition, it doesn’t ever present that to the user. Most of the big choices are autopiloted by the game, stat distribution and all the rules that go with it are hidden beneath the game’s surface. There is a ton of complex rules in Saturday Morning RPG that just like the rules in Pokémon, have been hidden beneath the game’s surface. This allows for a great deal of accessibility that many RPGs don’t afford the player.
Second, Pokémon is all about collectability. Saturday Morning RPG has this in common. In SMRPG you navigate the game world collecting, trading, and buying objects that you can use in battle. Just like Pokémon, these objects have unique abilities and applications in battle. “Collecting ‘em all” is just as applicable and fun in Saturday Morning RPG as it is in Pokemon.
Paper Mario –
Paper Mario is the ultimate “casual” RPG and we’ve borrowed so much from it (and it’s predecessor “Super Mario RPG”, which has unfortunately claimed our acronym) that I’m not even sure where to start. I guess the most obvious place to start is with the battle interface we’ve currently got in the game. The battle system in Saturday Morning RPG consists of four choices, which are displayed to the player in a d-pad style interface. This pretty much describes the battle system of Super Mario RPG. I don’t think I have to go much more in-depth on that.
Also, in both Paper Mario and Super Mario RPG the player can defend against an enemy attack by pressing a button during a split second interval. This active defense keeps players engaged in the game and helps sate any boredom a more traditional RPG system could create. Saturday Morning RPG offers this same type of system; players have an interval equal to 1/3 of the enemy’s attack time in which they can defend against the attack by tapping the screen.
We also chose to emulate the Paper Mario leveling system, where the player gets to choose what stats to grow, but they are never overwhelmed with options. Players in Saturday Morning RPG will get to choose between three different stats to allocate a point to when they level up. This will ultimately keep people from drowning in the sea of intricacies that typically makes up RPG stat allocation.
Costume Quest –
Costume Quest was actually announced after I started work on Saturday Morning RPG. The minute I saw it, I became worried because it would surely draw comparison to SMRPG. I also knew that it would be a great opportunity to gauge what the market wanted out of a product like ours. I read countless reviews for Costume Quest and it lead me to adding the “Stash” feature in Saturday Morning RPG’s battle system. The number one complaint I saw about Costume Quest was that you couldn’t necessarily heal whenever you wanted or needed to. Saturday Morning RPG was initially the same way, with items only ever being dealt out at random. The stash added three slots that the player could fill with any object, those objects could be accessed at any time in battle and used only once per battle (whereas objects randomly drawn are re-shuffled and re-dealt when possible). This instantly solved the problem. I didn’t see too many other complaints about Costume Quest aside from people saying it was too repetitive (a problem I did not have).
A feature that many people will likely think is inspired by Costume Quest would be our “Trapper Keeper” style inventory system. In Costume Quest players keep track of all the game’s relevant data through a notebook. It’s very similar to what we’re doing with the Trapper Keeper; however, Costume Quest did not inspire our idea – the Trapper Keeper was the only thing that made sense in the context of our game for inventory management.