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Jan
20th
2018

The Troubles of Game Design · 1:09am Jan 20th, 2018

Haven't done one of these blog posts in a while, but something compelled me to write something based on my experience with this short RPG Maker game I spent the last three days playing, and it does an excellent job at highlighting the important qualities of good game design, but that's not exactly a compliment. I'll try to make the blog post short, and it will cover the game's story in some aspects.

Not too long ago, Equestria Daily featured a recently completed fan-game based on MLP:

Day Dreaming Derpy underwent approximately a year's worth of development, and various demos and betas were available to download during that period. The game's premise of Derpy visiting ponies' dreams, cute sprites, and charming mood immediately caught my attention, and I decided to give it a whirl. I wasn't expecting anything spectacular, as fan-games aren't the kind of raw experience you'd find in games created by massive teams or ambitious and talented indies, but I figured it'd be a good way to spend time after having completed The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and Super Mario Odyssey.

The game honestly surprised me in a good way at first, as the cute and relaxing feel made it rather fun. It wasn't complex, and the various classes seemingly inspired by Final Fantasy V's job system could've used some tweaks to make them more balanced, but there was plenty of smiles to be found as you're entering ponies' dreams and helping them overcome their conflicts, insecurities, or anything else that might be bothering them. The first three-quarters of the game does this well, split apart by Derpy having the ability to perform jobs for quick money in the real world (which start out tough and become easier as you progress through the game). There will be some points where you'll have to devise a strategy and figure out which class best complements your partner's skills, but for the most part, it's nothing that will boil your blood.

While the game's first portions sometimes deal with more serious topics here and there, usually at the end of a pony's dream, it's lighthearted for the most part. This changes when things suddenly become much more serious when you encounter the boss for Princess Luna's dream. It turns out the Tantabus and Daybreaker may return as the former infects Princess Celestia's dreams, and it proceeds to throw a twist at the player in that Derpy had been sleeping for a month the entire time, even in the "real world" segments. Unless I missed something, this isn't foreshadowed aside from some eyeballs in the background that are easy to miss, but it wasn't egregious enough to where it ruined the experience. Nothing a little polish in the writing couldn't fix as far as I'm concerned.

Then the final part of the game arrives.

Where the game goes to shit is the final boss, who's Dinky possessed by the Tantabus. While the game has thrown challenges at you at times, the final boss is so poorly balanced to where it feels like you're not meant to defeat it. Dinky hits hard with all her attacks, and once the second phase arrives, she begins casting dark magic that'll eat half of your health or more. What's even worse is that she knows a spell that allows her to attack twice in one turn, and if the RNG makes her use dark magic twice in a row on the same turn, it's a guaranteed OHKO. Healing items are moot, as most of her attacks will do more than the best healing item in the game, and you don't have any party members to act as healers, stat buffers, tanks, etc. It's just Derpy and her ability to change classes, which wastes a turn. Unless you grind at the game's only grinding spot for hours or cheat, the final boss is almost impossible to beat. Keep in mind it usually takes six hours to reach that point in the game, and getting to a level where you'll be able to survive two dark magic spells will take a long time.

However, there is one secret class that's highly effective against the final boss and hilariously broken, and the sidequest is pretty simple if you interact with as many things as possible. However, the last part of that quest has Derpy facing against five of the game's bosses at the same time by herself, and this is much harder than it sounds. It's possible to clear at a lower level if one of the bosses uses its best attack and stuns itself, but even then, it'll take more than a few tries. Furthermore, even getting the class won't guarantee victory because of Dinky's dark magic.

The endgame is also where you'll realize the classes are poorly balanced. The stage magician and Ponytone classes are the only decent ones throughout the entire game because they have abilities that hit multiple enemies at once for low MP costs. While you can get some mileage out of the constructor class, its high HP cost to use its special attacks make it impractical most of the time. The other classes Derpy can access range from mediocre to useless.

That's not to say you can't have a game where grinding becomes necessary for completion, especially if you're aiming to beat the bonus boss or get 100%. Some may like that kind of challenge when it's just to beat the game or overcome a boss with massive stats, but it's not for me.

Despite all these grievances, I do not regret playing Day Dreaming Derpy whatsoever. There's enough of a groundwork for a truly excellent fan-game, and it could've gotten there with some balance tweaks, renewed focus on visiting ponies' dreams, and a final boss that doesn't force the player to grind for hours or rely on RNG to beat.

I would've preferred the last part of the game kept its focus on visiting ponies' dreams instead of adopting a more serious plot, and the lack of specific characters such as Starlight Glimmer, Silver Spoon, Ember, Thorax, Princess Cadance, Spitfire, and more felt like missed opportunities for dream-based shenanigans, but those two points are more nitpicks than anything. The seriousness introduced in the endgame doesn't feel too misplaced given how most ponies' dreams end with them facing their fears and growing as characters.

Naturally, I hope the developer behind this game continues working on projects and improves with each new game or level. There are glimpses of a good game sprinkled throughout Day Dreaming Derpy, especially in the earlier stages, and maybe future patches and tweaks can improve this game into something that's worth recommending if you're looking to burn some time.

Anyway, time to resume writing. I've got a story that needs editing and an idea that might be intriguing. Best wishes!

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Comments ( 4 )

You know, I hope someone develops a MLP platformer game, a la Kirby.

and the various classes seemingly inspired by Final Fantasy V's job system

I wish we had a modern JRPG that brought that system back, cuz that shit was cool. :fluttershbad:

4778077
Yeah, it's a shame more games don't have a similar system. It brought a layer of complexity that was fun and engaging, discovering which combinations worked best with each other and what skills were most effective against certain enemies.

4778077

Bravely Default on 3Ds got something like 24 jobs.

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