Thought I'd take a break from upping the Doggerel Index for a bit, and just kind of ramble on about stuff I'd like to see in RPGs. I should really try spending some actual time with one of the illions of retro-RPG makers out there.
1. No elaborate level up rituals. One of the things I didn't like about Final Fantasy X was the sphere system. It looks swanky, but it's entirely too cumbersome. I found myself worrying that if I pumped up one character, I wouldn't have the relevant spheres for the next, and that there'd be scarcity for the 'key spheres' and I'd be stuck with limited character potential. I also had to think about what I'd do down the line by searching the winding paths. All in all, it was like the unhealthy amounts of time I spent in my Armored Core's garage, only in a bad, unfun way. Just let me save the world without the micromanagement, okay?
2. Customization: On the opposite end of the spectrum, I don't like systems where you can't control what skills your characters develop. I loved the job systems of FF5 and FF Tactics. You had a reasonable amount of control, and you didn't have to juggle oodles of factors to do it. Just spend job points or fight monsters for AP, and you can be what you want to be. The downside to having too much of this is that you may risk the character's identity. I spent some time playing Ramza as a summoner in FFT, and in a cutscene, he drew a sword. It felt weird.
3. Flatter power curves: I was replaying the original FF in Dawn of Souls, with the new mechanics. The really annoying thing was that just playing regularly with a few trips through the special add-on dungeons, I wound up staying far ahead of all the enemies. When you can beat the previously dreaded WarMech (renamed 'Death Machine') in a single round without going through a leveling frenzy, something's gone wrong. Additionally, extremely high level changes don't make all that sense half the time. The empire has guards with 10,000 hitpoints as you get to the end, but early on, they sent squads of 40 hp grunts after you? I think it'd be an interesting challenge to make an RPG that leaves your power fairly constant and challenges you to use your abilities in innovative ways.
4. If you have a choice between simplicity and complexity, favor simplicity. Some plots just get too big and collapse under their own weight.
5. Allow an evil ending: Sometimes, I'm just curious to see what it'd be like if Zeromus and his loyal henchman (me) got to munch on everyone's soul or whatever. Heck, I think it'd be interesting to see an RPG where you're explicitly evil and stay that way up until you conquer the world. That's one reason I tried playing 7th Saga as Lejes, the demon, until I heard that there was one standard ending for all the characters.
6. If you lose to the final boss, you should definitely show the consequences. That's one thing that got me so determined to beat Chrono Trigger after my first defeat. Had a friend who beat FF7 after a few tries, and Chrono Trigger was fresh on my mind after borrowing a copy. "What happens if you lose the final battle?" "Oh, just the Game Over screen." Boy, was I disappointed.
7. Kill random encounters. I don't like them, and I think I can safely assume you don't either. I could probably tolerate them if they were rare, or very localized. All they do is slow down the story. In retrospect, they also probably took up a lot of memory in the early console cartridges that could have been used for the real meat of the game. If you must have monsters wandering about, do it like Earthbound/Mother 2: They're visible and often avoidable. If you're strong enough, the monsters just plain die without the formalities of entering attack commands. If you're really strong, they'll run away from you.
8. We'll settle for saving the kingdom: Let's keep the stakes a bit more reasonable, here. Plots where you end up saving the world are good in moderation, but let's not make every game go that far, okay? Plus, if you make a sequel, it won't strain credibility to think that the world could come close to ending twice in a character's lifetime.
9. You're not alone: If you're out to save the kingdom, chance are, there'll be other people out there who will want to do the same. Chances are, they'll also wind up helping you in actually helpful ways, rather than getting the JSDF (get yourself blown up to show how powerful the bad guy is) treatment.
10. Make sure your villains at least skimmed The Evil Overlord List.
So, anyone else want to contribute?