Once we're done with our current projects and have some money saved up, I'd love to take a few years, maybe hire an extra person or two, and make something truly amazing - an RPG that could stand toe to toe with the classics of the past.
Now I have a pretty good idea of what I'd like in a JRPG, but I was curious to see what others thought on the matter and so I posted the following question on my twitter account: "JRPG fans - what would your ultimate JRPG be like?" I got dozens of responses - many from individuals who work in the video game industry - and the results were interesting.
Below, I present to you the 5 most common elements I saw, in roughly their order of popularity.
1. Control of a Well Written Plot - This was by far the most common element I saw in the responses. Fans want a strong, well thought out plot, but they also want to have some say over what happens.
2. Turn-based battle system - There was a lot of variety in exactly what kind of battle system they wanted (the Grandia, Shin Megami Tensei, and Final Fantasy series were all brought up many times) but one thing was clear - many fans miss the days when turn-based combat was the norm and not the exception.
3. Complex, intricate LV-Up system - Job systems and skill systems were especially popular.
4. Exploration - Players wanted huge worlds with the freedom to explore. No wonder Xenoblade and popular Western sandbox RPGs like Fallout and Skyrim review so well!
5. More adult plots - Fans that grow up on JRPGs in the 80s, 90s, and beyond are now adults and want to be treated as such.
So taking this feedback and my opinions into consideration, here's a rough premise I came up with.
World is a mix of fantasy & science fiction. Main city in the world is a dystopia ala Midgar that wouldn't look out of place in Shadowrun. Outside the city, there's a dangerous wilderness that's mostly unknown to the civilized world. Main player is a computer that gained sentience and corporeal form (can choose to be either male or female). Main plot has various branches - do you side with those who would use your powers? Go on a quest of self discovery? Seek the quiet life that no one will let you have? There will also be various optional major plot lines ala the Elder Scrolls series guild quests.
Party composition and party member relationships would have an effect on dialogue, plot, available dungeons, etc. None of this "Chie has pledged her undying love to you but her dialogue and actions are still exactly the same in all major plot scenes" nonsense.
Combat will be turn-based and probably loosely based on the Grandia series. LV-Up system would be kind of like the Materia from FF7 except each character has one exclusive Materia that can not be unequipped and individual Materia can be customized ala the Sphere Grid from FF10.
Lots of exploration possibilities. To keep difficulty in control without removing the player's feeling of progression, each area will have a possible LV range however the LV choosen will be based on things like the player's progression when they first go to that area. For example, an early area might have a LV range of 1-10 so if you go there right at the beginning, enemies will be permanently locked into LV1 and would stay that way for the entire game. However if you didn't go there until the end of the game, the enemies would be locked at LV10 (even if you're say LV50 - still want to make the early area feel like an early area). Conversely, a late game area might have a LV range of 50-60 so if you went there early, it'd get locked into LV50 which might still be way more than you could handle.
2D pixel art and an awesome soundtrack. 'cause that's just how we do things here.
And now for a quick Q&A:
Will this actually be made? Beats me. Keep in mind that we're not going to be starting any new projects for a while (gotta finish what we've already begun first!) and I scrap ideas almost as quickly as I come up with them so there's no guarantee this idea will ever turn into anything.
Why do you keep mentioning other games? Don't you want to be original? This isn't even at a design document state. Mentioning other games is a quick and easy way to give everyone a general idea. Once a game is further along, that's when you can start talking details and how to make it more unique.
Aren't you afraid someone else will steal your ideas? Not particularly. They're just ideas. Taking these ideas and turning them into an actual high quality game would take a talented team years of work .Plus these ideas are just a starting point - if you gave these ideas to two talented designers and teams, you'd end up with two drastically different games in the end.