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February 12th, 2011, 19:31
Originally Posted by Lurking Grue View Post
Then take another game with a lot of combat, Knights of the Chalice. This is not a game with trash mobs, ….
Instead of thinking about the correct ratio of trash mobs vs boss fights, how about dropping that whole idea, please. How about making all battles interesting by having an interesting combat system and challenging foes to fight.
I haven't played Knights of the Chalice so I can't say but I don't remember a single RPG with zero trash mobs. I also don't remember a single action game without trash mobs.

Take three significant examples, Icewindale 1 (fights are the body and the heart of this game), G2+NOT (it is quite more difficult with NOTR) and King's Bounty The Legend (strategy game). All have fights you have no chance to loose if you don't try loose the fight, ie all have trash fights.

One problem of difficulty management is to manage the learning curve, a point that forgot Jeff in his article. The learning curve can't be too step, if it is it will generate a game most players will throw the game in trash. That means that a margin should be taken. And some player will learn faster manage fights of type A and some later fights of type A will become for them a trash fight. But some other players will learn faster to manage fights of type B and for them later fights of type B will become for them a trash fight.

The learning curve involves another very difficult challenge, particularely for RPG that are bringing new mechanisms. DAO is a good example of this I don't remember a RPG that trigger as many comments of both "the fights are too difficult" AND "the fights are too easy".

Some players will find the various tricks very fast, some other will read in forums posts about fighting tactics and then will learn very fast too, some other will replay the game first parts multiple times before to really start a full play and will get from this repeated experience a much more advanced learning knowledge.

At the opposite, some players will just rush into the game and won't read any advices. Some will never attempt replay and try build a better tuned character. Some will feel humiliated if they don't manage all the fights by themselves and will refuse check any forum or even restart the game for a better character.

All of that plus that not all people will learn at the same curve and that build a real challenge to game designers, to build a game with a learning curve, which is in my opinion what can trigger the best games.

I think that one trick to manage a bit better that sort of problem is to repeat similar fights, the repetition gives more chance to find the right trick and make the player learn one point useful for future fights. But this repetition will also generate trash fights.

But the key point about trash fights is probably the pace of the game. A RPG isn't purely a series of fights but need manage exploration, story progression, interactions with NPC and puzzles or tricks solving. A slower pace for those phases certainly help and also avoid fights grab too much the focus hence some trash fights.

Also one more point is that constant tension is never as much impressive than variation of tensions with heights and lows. That's one more argument for trash fights that seems solid.

But I do agree that modern games tend abuse of trash fights and that in general I would wish there was less of them. But this is highly linked to the learning curve, if it's just to get tough fights that require 1 hour to beat, or tough fights that require hyper optimization of the character, or tough fights with a high possibility that random make lost the fights, nope none of them are for me.
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