Keep It Simple, Stupid
I haven't talked about Witness to Unity here in a while, and I have a backlog of design/code stuff I think might be interesting to talk about here - this is a collection things I have changed in my mechanics design sometimes to the point of completely replacing ideas.
I call this "Keep It Simple, Stupid" after a mnemonic pushed into me from English classes. Basically it's as it says - simple is better. In the case of what I talk about here, I often completely did away with systems under the pretense they would be overly confusing or obtuse for the player.
Stats and Attack Types
Original concept: Mentality served as a mental/magical defence. Dexterity, later renamed Finesse, served as a secondary strength stat for specialised use. This was usually for firearms, but sometimes included a weapon's bonus skills. The purpose of this was so certain characters were better at using guns or special skills than others, based on whether they had more Strength or more Finesse.
Current concept: Magical defence and Dexterity/Finesse are both dropped. Defences are instead based around elemental affinities and the single Defence stat, unless of course a skill ignores defence. Finesse too is dropped and all physical attacks are based on Strength.
Original concept: Of six weapon types, each character has two weapons they can use. Some of these weapons are focused on Finesse over Strength, meaning those characters that use one or the other stat are not so good with weapons that use the opposite stat. There is no real way to judge this, besides looking at what stats are increased by what weapons, and how high the character's stats are.
Current concept: Characters can use four of the six different weapon types, but they have unchanging proficiency in certain weapon types that affects how good a stat boost they get: this goes Great, Good, and then Poor. This is indicated in the menu screen. A character's favoured weapons is also indicated on their profile screen.
Original concept: Barter/trade system in the Nuish World. Instead of a fixed currency, the player would trade monster loot for precious metals (and not-so-precious). These metals would serve as the player's "gold" and would have varied worth between shop owners. Depending on the store, an item might be offered for different metals. The problem there is that since I would be assigning values manually, I wouldn't be able to tell if one item was effectively overpriced one place or another.
Current concept: The nuish now use a straight-forward currency called Credits. Monster loot is still sold for cash, but at least it's now actual cash. Different stores have slight different prices as well as an increase in price over time. While in some way this doesn't seem as unique, the player probably doesn't want to spend time juggling items between stores. Besides that, the Nuish World being at least an industrial level probably would have an actual currency.
Skills and Classing
Original concept: Originally there was an equipment skills system. By gaining AP, characters could learn skills from weapons and armour. These skills only remained as long as the item was equipped. Only some armours gave skills. The problem was that there's also learning skills by level and EXP, so it might've simply meant more number juggling.
Current concept: This system was effectively dropped completely. Weapons still give skills, but they're static. Some rare accessories give special skills, but these are stated specifically in the descriptions.
Original concept: Related to the equipment skills mechanic was shifting equipment. A small number of armours would pseudo-reclass a character by drastically shifting stats, giving a large pool of skills, and disabling others. The key function behind this system (and equipment skills as a whole really) was to allow non-mages access to their key elemental skills, with mages getting physical stuff as a balance. The main problem with this was its ambiguity. While you could tell what equipment was pseudo-reclassing by it described as "shifting", it still lacked a feeling of rigidness.
Current concept: There is no equipment to drastically change character build, or to confuse the player about what is influencing the build of the party. Instead of vague equipment differences, there's now an actual subclass system based around unity with other characters. Party members can link to other party members, changing half of their skillset and altering stats appropiately.
Blurbs and Data
Original concept: In battle and from the main menu you can view data about enemies. The data was originally displayed in the form of a descriptive blurb that varied between party members - what blurb you got depended on who used an Analysis skill on the enemy. Metia was unique for specifically showing elemental weaknesses.
Current concept: The problems with this system was that Metia obviously had the best analytical ability, and that you had to use the Analysis skill for each character to get all variations on the blurbs. The data viewable on the analysis screen is now based around meeting a certain level of analysis points. Defeating adds one point, while using analysis immediately "levels up" the information unlocked. You can beat many enemies to level up data, or speed things up mid-battle with Analysis skills. The characters no longer give varied blurbs.
Eating Random Plants Is Not Advised
Original concept: The world of Forseta is a land of survival-of-the-fittest. It's the world where you'll probably get the most frequent recovery items, however the better those items, the more likely it is they would "miss" and not heal you. As much as the chance of miss is consistent per-verb, it still felt ambiguous.
Current concept: There's still a random chance, but now it's for certain status ailments. In the very least, the player will recover health. They can balance any unwanted surprises with other status-healing items.
- Counter state now also reflects physical attacks that aren't physical/bullet element.
- The battle UI is more open - no background to the status, and has more visible items in the menus.
- At the start of the game, menu items and some mechanics are disabled until they are introduced so as to feed the player concepts slowly.
- Unarmed attack now is unavailable when a character equips a weapon. It was buggy as it was supposed to ignore equipment Strength boosts, but it also ignored boosts that weren't weapons.
- The area map screen now uses images instead of generated maps, as because they were generated they were frequently ugly and cluttered. Manually created images lends itself to more control.
- As it is though, I'm thinking of replacing this again. The problem with manually created images is making sure they are accurate to walkable areas, and deciding what places get maps or not. The replacement would probably be based on interconnected map shapes that light up location, rather than an accurate minimap system.
- A more technical change: code for sprites that required multiple layers of images now use a method of combining bitmaps into one for a single sprite, instead of multiple sprite and bitmap objects.