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» Intro to RPG Design Part 2
Introduction to RPG Design Part 2
Written by KingSpoom

You may be asking yourself "where do I start?" A relatively simple question. If you do not have an idea for a main character or plot already, then the setting is the most important thing to make. If you already have one of the things mentioned above, this will be the next step. The setting will set the pace of the game as far as what the characters will be able to do. It will give a basic idea of what weapons (if any) will be used, what technology or knowledge is available, and what the world will look like. A setting will begin to form the basis for your game. There are advantages and disadvantages to every setting. Past settings are the most common type (specifically medieval) and can run into problems if you are looking for original ideas. Modern settings generally have less of an "epic" feel to them. Modern settings also discard realism in many cases, allowing people to perform superhuman feats, only to become feeble moments later (although many games do this, it is more apparent in a modern setting). Futuristic settings are more common than modern settings, and for a good reason. In a futuristic setting you can basically do what you want. Technology can allow cloning, teleportation, and many other fantasies as realities without totally discarding realism. On a downside, futuristic settings confuse players on a constant basis, and often try to handle complex stories beyond the creator's reach. The right type for you should be easy to decide. It should be the type that you have an idea for, or the type that interests you the most. Writing about something that interests you will yield a better game in the end.

The next important thing to decide is the game's linearity. Linearity will be a helpful factor in determining how much effort you will have to put into the game, and where it needs to be placed. Deciding on your linearity before you start your game will help it be organized and will allow efficient use of resources. Linearity is a measurement of the amount of options there are while playing a game.

There are two basic types of options that are given to players. The first type of option, which I will now call a static option, doesn't have to happen. It is entirely up to the player to trigger them, and the game will finish unaltered either way. An example of static options are the ruby and emerald weapons from Final Fantasy VII. The story remains the same if you beat them, and you really don't receive a reward for beating them (if you could defeat them, you could defeat the end boss, which renders the weapons they provide unrewarding).

The other type of option is a dynamic option. These are the real options, the ones that affect linearity. These options often come in sets, and they usually can't all be completed. However, some of them MUST be completed in order to finish the game. For example, in FF7, while busting into the Shinra HQ you can either sneak in through the back or charge forward through the front. Each different option could yield a different outcome. Each one of the options also contains different pros and cons. The amount of options available gives the game a lot of replay value and it allows the player to change the challenge of the game by getting or not getting certain characters or spells.

Here are the four types of linearity with a description and example.

1. Completely linear game:

Description - Every time you play that type of game you will doing the same thing in the same order, give or take the minor details.

Example - Gradius (NES)

2. Partially linear game:

Description - Often it involves a scripted beginning followed by a couple decisions nearing the end. For this reason it is often compared to a tree. Players will start at the trunk (roots are usually avoided, but are sometimes individual openings for players who quickly join together). Players then follow the game path up the tree nearing the top where the branches start. However, even though the player can explore these "branches", he will eventually have to return to the tree and continue the game.

Example - Castlevania: Circle of the Moon (GBA)

3. Non-linear games:

Description - These games are huge, but often generic. The player can move in and out of events in any way he wants and can usually come about the end of the game in several ways. However, the game still has a goal.

Example - Mario Sunshine (Gamecube)

4. Completely non-linear game:

Description - In this type of game every possible option is available from the start, often viewed like an open field. Instead of focusing on one aspect, the game is about everything.

Example - Simcity (PC)

Each of the above types of linearity has certain advantages and disadvantages.

Completely linear games:


- Most people feel confined by the lack of options
- After one play though the game becomes boring
- Usually rely on high difficulty factor to remain interesting


- Easy to keep track of what is going on for both the player and creator
- Quick to make and fix
- Simple to play-test, so the game should be solid

Completely non-linear games:


- Quickly overwhelms you with options, forcing you to make choices with unknown effects
- Impossible to keep track of everything the player has done
- Devoid of life; Games feel like random pieces of scenery thrown together
- Allows player to get lost in a giant world because of excessive areas


- Highly customizable, allows the player to play how they want
- Easy to maintain challenges that are not combat based
- Allows a feel for a real world, and real world situations
- Style of game play will usually not leave players frustrated

Partially linear and non-linear games


- Can ruin game play with excessive or flawed side-quests
- Side-quests can also lead to plot holes in story


- Most popular and liked styles of games among the 4 above
- Allows players to make choices that affect the game
- Gives breaks from tiresome 'plot trekking' often and at players leisure

Here are a couple tips to remember while thinking about linearity:

- Giving the player something to do besides following the game's base storyline is a good idea, however, disrupting the flow of the game or the plot to do so is not. Placing a fun mini-game in an average dungeon while the player is hunting down a magical artifact may be fun; putting the same mini-game in the main villain's hidden lair while the players are attempting to rescue an ally is distracting.
- The more non-linear your game is, the easier you must make it to stay on track.
- The more optional stuff you have during the game, the stronger your player has potential to be.
- Don't offer an option if there's no reason to take it! Players don't like going out of their way to be greeted with a dead-end. They will often think they missed something and spend more time exploring an optional area than they should, and for nothing.

The next article I have planned is going to be about plots and their development. I will be giving a few examples of plots that you can use at the end of each of them (which should span 2-3 articles).
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