I love RPGs, particularly JPRGs. They consistently remain the most common genre of games I play. Sure, I'll play puzzle games, rhythm games, even the odd adventure or goofy fighting game, but the majority of my DS, PS2 and Gameboy games remain turn-based JRPGs. And as much as I love the genre, even with some of the repeating cliches of adolescent heroes, princess or priestess ladies and the so-called 'out-dated' style of turn-based combat there are a few things that drive me crazy. Based off of my recent experience, in no particular order of prominence, I present the commandments all great RPGs should follow.
1. Thou Shalt have a save point somewhere within the first half of play time.
I usually only play games a couple hours a day. This is due to a combination of time constraints and health. But it seems whenever I start a new game I run into the same problem: I usually have to play through 2-3 hours straight of tutorials, cutscenes, introductions and in some cases, le gasp, an entire boss battle before I have an opportunity to save. This is a problem because the beginning of a game usually sets up the premise of the entire story. But because so many games don't give me a chance to save until so long in, that I might be physically suffering, I stop caring about the story and only worry about finding a save point as quickly as possible so I won't have to play through another 2-3 hours *again* because I didn't get a chance to save earlier. And thus miss many important plot points. For story-based games, that's a big no-no
2. Thou Shall provide an opportunity to save at any time in a portable game.
This is also another pet peeve of mine. I travel on the bus and I like to take my DS or PSP with me. There are dozens of wonderful RPGs for portable systems, some even better than what's on consoles right now, but for being portable games, they sure aren't very friendly to the idea that the player may just stop suddenly at any time. Granted, a lot of these games are ported versions of PS RPGs that weren't designed to be started and stopped suddenly, but even a lot of portable-first games have this problem. Yes, most systems can go into sleep mode, but even out of sleep mode it may take 3-4 hours to complete the mission or task before being allowed to save again, and between one direction and another direction I may not touch the game for 4-8 hours. Batteries don't last that long. And if I've come home, I shouldn't need to keep playing just to finish up and not waste my progress.
3. Thou Shall make cutscenes skipable
It shocks me how many games still goof this. I don't want to skip cutscenes because they are boring, or because I'm trying to complete the game as fast as possible (though lots of people do want that for those reasons) but it might be that this particular cutscene is right before a boss battle I may have attempted already 3 or 4 times. I don't want to watch the same 5-15 minute cutscene over and over again. Let me skip it guys. Please.
4. Thou Shall give an opportunity to save between a major boss battle and a series of long cutscenes.
You know those moments, where you beat a particular boss and suddenly everything goes to hell, the story pulls a twist and now you're going along for possibly 30 minutes of cut scenes to explain what the actual hell is going on? Usually the boss you had just beaten was particularly tough and that alone may have taken an hour or so to beat. Once again we're talking long spans of time without being able to save. You don't always expect where those long scenes are going to come from, and you may not want to skip them either. So you should always be able to save right away after a major boss battle so you have an opportunity to take a break.
5. Thou Shalt not have too high a random encounter rate.
I have mixed feeling about random encounters versus choosing your battles, but one thing is certain: nothing drives me crazier than already being at weak health, being within eye shot of a town or inn and not being able to take more than two steps without having to fight something. It's unnecessarily stressful and frustrating. It's also bad if you happen to be much stronger than the things in the area and the fights are fast but the encounter rate slows you down.
6. Thy minion bosses Shall be similarly ranged to the main boss.
What this one means is that I haaaate when you have a high level boss surrounded by lower level, low-experience giving monsters. This is a problem because in case I can't beat the boss right away, I have to spend hours grinding and grinding on these wimps before I'm at a comparable level. Instead, the minions should be weaker than the boss, but if say, you're at level 30 and the boss is level 50, the minions should be around 35 so that when you fight them they give you enough experience to match the boss relatively quickly. RPG leveling is based of a curve, but the side monsters don't always reflect that.
7. Thy AI Shall be at least somewhat 'I'
Action-RPGs rely on you controlling one character to hack and slash while the rest of your team handles themselves. But so many games like this the Artificial Intelligence isn't so intelligent. Using wrong-element spells, healing and wasting good items early on, throwing themselves in front of your attacks or the opponent's attacks like spikey-haired lemmings. There is no shortage of ways bad AI can and will screw you over. Good games let you tweak the characters you're not in control of when it comes to their behavior. But it seems no matter what command selections you pick or how much you scream at the TV, they always seem to put themselves in the wrong place at the wrong time.
8. Thou shall create some way to avoid fights altogether
Pokemon was so brilliant in its random encounter system and it astonishes me how few games copied it. Don't want to fight? Don't go in certain areas and use Repels. Almost no RPGs have items or tools to avoid fights altogether, the best you can hope for is something that lowers the encounter rate. Even in games without random encounters, you can still get ambushed by the monster behind the box or tree.
9. Thou Shall make cutscenes pauseable and/or rewindable
My mom will sometimes talk to me about something important during a game. A lot of times, this is during the cutscene. She will talk, the character will talk and I will miss both things all because you can't pause the cutscene. This is the opposite of not being able to skip and it's equally annoying.
These are my commandments for RPGs. So what other rules do you thing should mandatory for the genre? Post in the comments below.
EDIT: Fixed some of the grammar problems people kept point out. Hopefully that should quell some English Major rage.