Jul 092013
 

I’ve been replaying Wild Arms 1 lately and have been learning a lot from observing how they handled various aspects of RPG design. One aspect in particular really surprised me – how Wild Arms handles treasure chest rewards.

It’s an age-old RPG design dilemma – how do you make it so that treasure chests are rewarding without throwing the economic balance of the shops out of whack? I’m sure many of us have had the unpleasant experience of spending money in an RPG shop only to feel foolish when we soon find something even better than what we just bought.

Wild Arms solves this problem in a very elegant manner – there’s very little cross-over between chest rewards & store rewards.

From stores, the player buys better weapons and armor. They can buy consumable items but only the basics (heal individual ailments & the lowest tier of healing). Finally, there’s a money sink in the form of upgrading the ARMs (aka firearms/special moves) of one of your playable characters.

From treasure chests, the player can find better consumable items, accessories that can bestow various bonuses, and ways to permanently boost characters (like consumable items that raise a particular stat or lower the MP cost of an ability). In fact, you can even gain all new abilities from chests & exploration (new ARMs, glyphs that increase the number of spells the mage can use, and cutscenes that trigger the swordslinger’s into gaining new techniques).

Since you don’t get weapon & armor from treasure chests (at least most of the time; there are probably some high-end equipment that you can find near the end of the game), you can buy these things from stores knowing that your money is well spent. Likewise, treasure chests remain exciting because they give you new ways to improve characters that you can’t find otherwise and because consumable items are unusually effective in Wild Arms 1 due to one of the main characters starting out with an ability that allows her to target everyone when using an item.

In fact, the only common way that chest rewards tie into store rewards is by giving you money and here there’s no buyer’s remorse – it just gives you the opportunity to buy more rather than invalidate your previous purchases.

I certainly wasn’t expecting to learn something about RPG design from Wild Arms 1 (a personal favorite game, but one that I previously thought was more of a guilty pleasure than an honestly great game) but that just goes to show you that you should keep an open mind – you never know when something will spark an idea or teach you the answer to a problem that had been bothering you.

 Posted by at 3:04 pm

  8 Responses to “Wild Arms 1 – The Treasure Chests vs. Stores Design Dilemma”

  1. I am curious since you are playing Wild Arms. Whats your take on the active background battle systems found in Wild Arms 3 and Skies of Arcadia? I absolutely love it myself and hope that as your graphics abilities increase you look into it someday. It is just awesome watching all of your group and the enemy duking it out while you are sitting there making your decisions.

    And yeah, I really enjoyed chests in Wild Arms games. I loved finding new ARM’s and other new, fun things without having to deal with gear. Just made it so when you saw a chest you get excited. I also love stealing stuff from enemies, just throwing that out there.

  2. Heh, it’s good to see that I’m not the only person that loved that game. ;P And I didn’t notice that about the chests… My biggest memory of the game was the absolutely broken point

    *LIGHT SPOILER ALERT*

    Right after? the Sacred Shrine where you have to scare the small child with Hanpan to talk to the Priest. It’s been some time since I’ve played it, but unless I missed something (Or am remembering poorly… it’s been a ‘long’ time since I’ve played it. ;P), that kid is the Only NPC to react to Hanpan, and there is absolutely No indication that you should do that… ;?

    *END OF LIGHT SPOILERS*

    Anywho, awesome observation, and a late Kudos to the team that thought that up. ;P

  3. @Victar

    I’d love to play ACF, but while the original is a couple bucks on PSN or for the actual PS1 disc, ACF is hard to find for less than $60 these days. So I doubt I’ll ever be able to make the comparison.

  4. I played PA3 and PA4 on Insane, and while upgrading molotovs & potions within reason was virtually required, I felt like I desperately needed to buy weapon/armor upgrades whenever possible. Beating either game without buying any weapons/armor might be doable, but it would make Insane even harder IMO.

    Oh, and I liked the bromides in chests in Cthulhu’s Angels. That certainly gave me an incentive to loot everything.

    (Am I the only one who prefers the remake Alter Code F to the original Wild Arms?)

  5. I was the same as Adam. In pa3 and pa4 I only bought upgroids because it seemed to be a waste unless you saved for the very expensive equipment. Plus molotovs and nihilators were way too good to pass up.

  6. It’s definitely an interesting, albeit deceptively simple solution. I’ll definitely consider making store inventory and chest drops mutually exclusive in any game I look at making, going forward.

  7. I love Wild Arms. I think it’s fantastic, it’s one of my favorite games and I’m not ashamed to admit it. I’ve been longing for the series to continue. ;_;

  8. I’ve found PA4 to be the polar opposite. The only thing I buy from stores is item upgroids, since there’s enough equipment in chests to keep up and a finite amount of money to be had.

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