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RBinator avatar 11:31 AM on 10.28.2009  (server time)
My RPG Musings IV: Status effects

Since I last talked about elemental weaknesses, I figure that the next thing to follow would be status effects. Status effects are just as common as elemental weaknesses, if not more so. Many RPGs tend to have standard status effects like poison, darkness/blind, sleep, confusion, and silence. Even many of those with their own unique status effects will usually still have these common ones. Just like with the other stuff I talked about so far, I think there is room for improvement. At least they can change the tie of battle a lot more than the common elemental weakness systems that are damage only like I talked about last time.

The thing about status effects is that it can often be annoying to be on the receiving end of them, especially those that can almost or completely disable you. Confusion especially can be dangerous if used on any of your heavy hitters, since party members tend to do a lot more damage than enemies. On the other hand, a healer under confusion can be amusing when they take off like two HP from you. I think one of the most annoying of them all is when an enemy uses a spell that has a chance to cause death on all party members one by one.

Another annoying factor can be curing status effects just to get caught in them again. So you could be facing one or more enemies that poison you which lead to a couple of main ways of dealing with it. You can take up a turn to heal it, only to possibly fall under that same status condition again the very next turn. You could also just deal with it till the offending enemies are gone. I have a feeling this might be done in very few or even no RPGs, but what about having a cool down or grace period after getting healed from a status condition? Say after youíre cured from darkness, you canít fall under darkness again for two or three turns? That should take out the annoying factor of falling under it again right away just after getting cured.

The other problem about status effects is that regular enemies tend to not live long enough for it to matter much. If it takes three attacks to take out an enemy, why bother poisoning it when you could use that time to attack instead? Basically, a battle would have to last long enough for status effects on enemies to make much of a difference. An enemy could also be really powerful even if they donít live very long to make up for it. For example, an enemy that does powerful physical attacks, but doesnít live long, could be blinded to keep you healthy and that one action could make a big difference. Not to mention thereí isnít much of a chance of status effects working when used on regular enemies compared to player characters. Do I really need to get started on bosses? Itís rare that status effects will work on them at all. I understand they would be too easy if status effects worked the same on them as regular enemies, but what about having less of an effect? Poison could take off less health from them, they could recover from sleep quicker, and such. At least the status effects wonít be completely worthless on them.

At times I question the nature of status effects themselves, although Iím hardly the first. For example, darkness blinds you and sometimes youíll get lucky and hit the target, but it doesnít explain a couple of other things. For one, seeing isnít the only way to determine an enemyís location. Canít whoever is blinded hear where the enemy is at, especially in turn based battle systems where everyone stays in place? I guess hearing the enemy could factor into the limited chance you can still land a blow. Another thing is that this only effects physical attacks and not spells. Unless spells have a chance of missing (aside from status effect spells), the character affected by darkness will still be able to aim the spell perfectly. Then again, darkness seems to be sort of the physical counterpart to silence that Iíll get to in a moment.

Sleep must be some kind of deep magical sleep since itís the only way I can think of that characters can sleep through the loud noise of battle. For some reason, physical attacks tend to be the only attacks to get a character out of sleep and not magical attacks. Isnít it a bit much for Cloud to slash his huge sword across Tifaís even huger tits to get her to wake up? Silence might be the biggest offender here, all because of the name. How many RPGs does silence actually prevent characters from speaking? RPGs that may have one liners during battle can still have the characters speaking even when affected by this. Silence is supposed to be based off the idea that characters chant to cast a spell and being unable to speak would prevent this. This seems to be a left over from tabletop RPGs, since in most games, including with one liners, characters just simply cast a spell. Wouldnít a name like ďmagic disabledĒ or something work? I guess that wonít happen, since status conditions tend to be one word long and just about any RPG player is familiar with what silence does, so developers keep the name.

One thing I think would be more interesting to see are status effects that are both positive and negative. This can add more strategy and thinking on the playerís part. I think the closest thing to something that exists like this in some RPG is the Berserk status, at least when it increases attack power and not just simply force you to attack. On one hand, this could be positive and make physical fighters more deadly, but on the other hand, those that depend more on spells and such would be at a disadvantage. For example, you could use this on an enemy that likes to use spells a lot. Another positive and negative status effect could be one that blocks all damage, but also makes you unable to act. I suppose this wouldnít be much different than a technique that can do the same thing. Get where Iím coming from?

Thatís it for now. Maybe sooner or later I could spice up these entries with pictures, assuming I can find some that are related to what Iím talking about.

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