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World of Critcraft
10.06.2009 um 19:09
Okay bear with me, guys—this one takes a little while getting in.
Secret of Mana
, two of your three characters have magic, up to a maximum of 99 magic points at a time. Your offensive caster has an MP absorb spell, but aside from that, the only way to restore your magic points mid-dungeon is to use a Fairy Walnut, which restores 50 MP. You can only hold a maximum of four.
By limiting the selection of mana-restoring items to one item type, which only restores mana in one large chunk, the game has rendered it almost pointless to increase your maximum mana above 50.
Are you with me here? Since your MP caps at 99, you can never use two in a row without wasting some, and given the real time nature of the game, using an item doesn't cost a turn, or similarly penalize you time wise—meaning there's no penalty for just waiting until you're below 50 again. Your offensive spell caster has an MP absorb spell, so you only use restorative items on your defensive caster. For the defensive caster character, every point of MP gained up until 50 is
worth 5 MP (the original plus four Fairy Walnut's worth), but past 50, every point of MP gained is worth only a single point, to be used and only restored once you sleep at an inn.
You have no control over your advancement, so this doesn't actually cause any balance issues. But you can clearly tell from looking at the game that the designers just...didn't think much about that. Health restoring items come in 100, 250, and “all” versions (out of a max of 999), so why not magic?
“Video Game Design” as a valid field of inquiry is a fairly new phenomenon, and I think design hiccups like the above one from Secret of Mana suggest that it's taken a while to connect the people who were pioneering this new medium with the people who had been doing the same thing on paper for at least a decade before. Early RPGs (which I count as everything leading up to the release of the PS1), particularly Japanese ones, provide a fascinating window into a large group of people trying to reinvent the wheel in terms of roleplaying games.
For instance, take the idea of critical hits. (The wikipedia article can be found
) The idea of critical hits, as best as I can tell, arose as a way of somewhat mitigating the horrible inaccuracy of the whole concept of "hit points". After all—in real combat, there's always a chance you'll stab somebody in the heart, causing a much more grievous wound than if you had stabbed them in, say, the thigh.
According to the Wikipedia article, 1975 was the birth of the "critical hit" concept in western civilization, which was drastically
the advent of video roleplaying games. Supposedly, the man behind
, Yuji Horii, cited the
among his influences for the gameplay of Dragon Warrior, but even crafting that sentence indicates how much of the early Japanese RPG experience was informed by Western Culture. The Dragonlord from Enix's first Dragon Warrior is most
the kind St. George would have been tasked with slaying—so all of this still comes back to western-designed tabletop role-playing games.
And yet, take the thief class from Final Fantasy. If I recall correctly, he had an increased chance to critically hit. Now this makes perfect sense to our current gameplaying sensibilities, but here's the thing—it
actually has no realistic basis
. Why should I be more likely to hit a vital organ because I steal things? I understand that there's an association between stealth and assassination, but I imagine that the original Japanese word for the “Thief” in Final Fantasy provided a smoother segue to the upgraded “Ninja” class.
The original “Rogue” (
) game had no such association between thievery and likelihood of striking an internal organ, and yet it's become such a huge part of our gaming culture that nobody bats an eye at the idea that a primary statistic designed to represent your ability to dodge (Dexterity in D&D, Agility in WoW) also increases your chance of striking an internal organ—or that there's an entire class in almost
every single MMO
created based on the combination of being sneaky, and critically hitting someone. I certainly don't
, of course, but I think it's occasionally edifying to trace the history of certain gaming tropes, and learn how potentially artificial these associations are.
Well, at least for you guys,
roll combat with my rogue.
The reprinted text of this article can be found on my
, on which I'll be doing a whole series on old timey RPG tropes. Hope to see you there.
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