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    jp's GameLog for Jeanne D'Arc (PSP)

    Tuesday 31 August, 2010

    I'm about 2/3 of the way through and I'm starting to get a little tired. (I've played about 30 hrs so far, which is quite a bit!) Rather than mope about why I'm ready to move on to something else, I though I'd detail some of the design decisions I thought were interesting or unusual from a genre perspective. While this game comfortably fits under the tactical RPG umbrella I was surprised by a number of things that break convention without sacrificing the tactical-RPGness of the game. In other words, these are changes that aren't about genre-bending or extending the genre. Rather, they're about doing things that have always been done in a certain way, differently.

    1. Performing actions successfully results in experience rewards during a mission. This includes offensive skills (hitting or killing an opponent), but also defensive ones (if your counter-attack is successful, you also get points) and non-combat actions such as casting spells.

    2. You can level-up in the middle of a mission. While you can't change your equipment or abilities mid-mission, a level increase does result in improved stats, which is never a bad thing!

    3. It always takes 100XP to gain a level. Always.

    This one is interesting because it really does fly in the face of convention. Traditionally (as borrowed from paper and pencil RPGs such as Dungeons and Dragons) higher levels meant you needed increasingly more XP. From a rewards/gameplay time perspective this means that you face a situation of rapidly diminishing returns for your time; you need to spend more time playing before you get a new level the higher up you go. There's all kinds of behavioral psychology behind particular why we put up with this in the first place. However, when you stop to think about it, it's unnecessary from a game design perspective. So, it's interesting to note how this convention has stuck around for such a long time.

    From a design perspectives there are lots of "tricks" games use to soften the diminishing returns while still making later rewards more "valuable" than earlier ones. For example, if higher level monsters provide more experience at a rate that matches the experience required to level-up, the ratio monsters killed/levels earner remains constant. However, what do you do when the amount of XP needed to level up remains the same?

    This is how it works in this game:
    The XP reward for killing a monster is variable. It depends on the differential (in levels) between the killer and the monster. You get more experience if the killer's level is lower than that of the monster and vice versa. The differences become significant! I needed to quickly level a character facing monsters 10 levels higher than his current level. By landing the killing blow, he would earn 280 xp (or so) compared to the 8 XP is (same-level as monster) teammates would earn! I'm not sure what the curve looks like exactly, but I'm pretty sure that it isn't very steep.

    4. Bonus XP at the end of the round are awarded to all the characters in your party (not just the ones you used during a mission). This helps reduce (but doesn't eliminate) issues with characters falling far behind, since they can level up even if you never use them.


    Heard great things about this game, but have no platform to play it on :(

    Regarding 1-4, tactical RPGs are possibly my favorite game genre, and it's interesting to think how and when 1-4 appeared and have changed over time, especially in relation to the 1-4 equivalents of normal RPG systems. #3 has been around at least since my first T-RPG, before I knew what they were, Shining Force on the Sega Genesis, and certainly after Final Fantasy Tactics on PS1. Don't remember ever seeing this on a normal RPG. #2 is an old one as well, and certainly never seen in a standard RPG, where XP is always doled out after the battle. #4 is a treat in any game because, yea, characters don't fall behind as far, and for someone like me who likes to use a variety of characters, this is fantastic. #1, as far as I know, is relatively newer in T-RPGs, some more recent games I've played going as far as rewarding XP even for a swing and a miss! If you simply take a shot at an enemy, XP reward!

    And a quick fun story: The last T-RPG I played was Suikoden Tactics. Suikoden games are famous for having 108 playable characters in each, though this one was a bit less, and #4 of your observations doesn't exist. #1-3 are well and alive, however. I was in a particular story battle and being slaughtered because the levels of enemies had far outpaced the levels of my characters. I found myself down to like a 1v6 and thought I was certainly going to lose, but would fight it out because (I don't know if Jeanne d'Arc did this or not) if you lose a fight, you can 'continue,' and try it again, keeping all the gained XP and levels from the lost fight. Anyway, my 1 character happened to have very high dodge and counterattack chances. He was quickly surrounded, but ended up dodging and counterattacking his way to victory, gaining 6 or 7 levels in the process (XP for every attack, including counterattack, including missed counterattacks!), and regenerating all HP every level up. I couldn't believe it.

    Sunday 5 September, 2010 by dkirschner

    Thanks for the clarifications! I guess I should be paying more attention to tactical RPGs. From your comments I get the sense that the genre diverged a lot earlier than I thought from "standard" RPG tropes. Neat!

    Thursday 9 September, 2010 by jp
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