DOI link for Conclusion
DOI link for Conclusion
The goal of this Reverse Design is to show that the design of Chrono Trigger is so intertwined with the story it tells that to understand either, one must understand both. Chrono Trigger is basically two different games that offer two different outlooks on the question of inevitability. The two halves of the game we call Chrono Trigger are different not just in terms of story, but also in terms of gameplay. One is linear, authorial, and plot-driven. The other is open-ended, flexible, and character-oriented. The true artistry of the game is that it's so sly about accomplishing all this that players often don't realize what's just happened. They know they've played a great game, and they know it's a unique and remarkable game, but it was such a smooth experience that they can't always point out why. We hope that we've made it clear why and how all this was created by the designers. Now, a few tips for designers from the best ideas in Chrono Trigger.
Everything in your game can communicate the thematic basis of your story. Chrono Trigger uses quest pacing, combat design, the distribution of art assets, and even the way the ability menu interface looks to subvert player expectations. When players are constantly forced to re-evaluate 82what they thought was going to happen, it makes for a great foundation for exploring the theme of inevitability.
Consider using long but moderately easy boss fights for climactic encounters, rather than hard bosses. Really hard bosses take so much energy that the player often can't respond emotionally to whatever comes next, which could disrupt the flow you're trying to create. Be careful where you place your big challenges!
Try an amplitude graph for a way to gauge the pacing of your game or the game you want to analyze. The dimensions of the graph need to be contrasting, but they can be a huge variety of things. Action versus platforming in a Mario game, stealth sections versus set pieces in a military shooter, exploration versus puzzle content in a dungeon crawler, etc. This is a great way to understand how other games achieve the balance you like and if your game can emulate (or differ from) that effect.
Mix up your sections. Whether they're quests, levels, zones, or whatever else marks divisions in your game, make sure they're not all the same. Consider how well Chrono Trigger's second half works, even though it defies convention. Convention says that the second half of a JRPG (and many other genres, too) should be long, dense sections of the most challenging content. Chrono Trigger does this, but only some of the time. The Sunken Desert is dense and challenging, but not long. The full Rainbow Shell quest is long, but hardly dense. The Son of Sun is just a boss and a puzzle! Variety is the spice of videogames, and it forces designers to think critically rather than just reuse the same old set-piece content.
You don't need great characters in your game, if you don't overexpose them. Chrono Trigger's cast of stereotypes serves perfectly well in the game. A lot of this has to do with the fact that they don't talk too much. The game's most emotional moment works almost universally because the player can feel the relief the characters do because of the gameplay, not because of characterization. Even many great novelists can't make a compelling character every time they try. Thankfully, videogames have a fallback position if they encounter that problem.
Before writing a game's script, spend time on examining the structure of the story. Figure out how the game is going to communicate the plot to the player. Remember to take into account the natural structure of the game in question, whether it's quests in an RPG, levels in a shooter, or any other natural structure. In any given game genre, certain design elements are inevitable, but some good planning can not only accommodate those elements, but even use them to great advantage.
Try to include clear patterns of evolution and expansion in your game's content—even if only in one area, like boss fights. The iterative pattern of evolutions and expansions exists in all kinds of mainstream videogames because it does a great job of slowly introducing players to new game mechanics and helping them to improve in their use.