Author Topic: Chrono Spiritual Successor Brainstorm Session (Come and join the fun!)  (Read 31405 times)

idioticidioms

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Re: Chrono Spiritual Successor Brainstorm Session (Come and join the fun!)
« Reply #210 on: June 21, 2013, 07:49:57 pm »
yeah, definitely some faults in them, but otherwise decent systems that I think could have been done much better with.

I was playing Kingdom Hearts Re:Coded and in some parts it was a little too easy. I played Proud mode from the moment I unlocked it on my grid and found it relatively easy to mix up abilities to get what I wanted as well as passing the little tests.

I was mostly thinking of just taking bits and pieces from various systems and combining them into one that would be simple, but far better than any of the sources by themselves. Kingdom Hearts, any of their games, is relatively too easy. It was easy to go through on the hardest modes provided, Proud, and whup everyone if you had any idea at all of battle strategy and experience with real time fighting. The problem for me, in the end, was that it wound up being way too easy as you progressed through the game with all of the combos and everything else you eventually had, and then once you found out the strategy of what you were fighting and fell into the rhythm of the boss, you were untouchable. Even with Sephiroth in the Coliseum.

With Terranigma, the movement was more realistic and you didn't have the advanced combos to rely on and had to use skill to beat the enemies, though it all became repetition by the end.

What you need is a third battle element that games like FF8 and Dragon Quest IX have, where enemies level up to match your level. (In DQIX, that's only in Grotto's, which are entirely optional. In FFVIII, it barely makes a difference because you far surpass the monsters regardless of their leveling after a certain point and the magic you can draw from the leveled up monsters, you should already have through your GF abilities. FFT is a great example, though for a different style of battle entirely.

Something lightweight and allowing free movement in battle, allowing the difficulty of monsters to scale with you, and allowing your back-up characters to act on their own or take orders from you based on your settings, but that would be kind of difficult to use skill combinations at certain points, so that kind of detracts from the Crono experience.

Saga Frontier is a good one. That has everything except the real time battle system, which I'm fairly certain I never thought they needed. I still haven't been able to go through and beat that game in its entirety, because they so adeptly scaled the difficulty to give you proper challenge as you advance. I'd say it's definitely on par with FFT for creating a challenging game all the way through. (though I have beaten FFT, so maybe it's better?)

tushantin

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Re: Chrono Spiritual Successor Brainstorm Session (Come and join the fun!)
« Reply #211 on: June 22, 2013, 08:12:57 am »
Wait, are we still discussing 2D engine? XD Or have we have we moved on to 3D? Not that this time it matters, but it's good to know nonetheless.

If we're making an Action RPG, based on idioticidioms' and Acacia Sgt's ideas, I'd like to add...

Have a button dedicated to drawing your weapons/putting weapons away (kind of like Zelda too, now that I think about it). A sort of "battle mode" button. I'm picturing enemies on the field just like in CT. They follow and attack you lightly when you're in "explore mode"(no weapon drawn). When you go into "battle mode" (weapon drawn) they attack harder and faster, but you can now attack back. In town, people might talk to you when you're no threat, but if you're in "battle mode" they're afraid of you and might even run away, or guards might come attack if they see you approach.

I haven't played Skyrim, but here's how I imagine our game to be...

FPS in Third Person (LOL). If 3D game, buttons will be FPS-like, local axis. If 2D game, buttons will be Global-Axis, bird's eye view.

Move character with arrow buttons or WASD, or even with Mouse. Normally, the character will face ahead, wherever it goes (or wherever the mouse clicks to). But in Battle Mode, the character will move as normal except it will ALWAYS FACE towards the direction of the mouse. This is useful if you're playing as an Archer or Mage.

Double-Arrow press will give a "backslide" manoeuvre to dodge attacks. Mouse-wheel selects between Attack and different spells and combos (based on idioticidioms' Kingdom Hearts Re:Coded idea); OR we could have a Ragnarok Online style "hotkeys". Click-And-Hold for continuous attack while standing or moving, but for some spells "Click-and-Hold" will be for charging and releasing would cause damage.

But... if we're going with this system, wouldn't it make sense to have "Online Play" along with this? Just a thought...

All this depends on whether we'd like a bird's eye view RPG. If we'd prefer side-scroller, then things may be different slightly.

Also, I don't think having complex "levelling" system would be a good idea for now, as it will only end up making the programming and planning complicated. We can, however, go for purely "stat-based" method. We'll also need to think of how to minimize "level drilling" that Final Fantasy forces on the players; how does CT / CC do it?

alfadorredux

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Re: Chrono Spiritual Successor Brainstorm Session (Come and join the fun!)
« Reply #212 on: June 22, 2013, 09:36:44 am »
2D vs. 3D doesn't really affect gameplay style all that much.

I haven't played Skyrim either, but from what I've seen it's a fairly typical WRPG, which is really a different genre from JRPGs (more similar to the Zelda games, which I place in a different category, although some may disagree).

The simplest RPG stat system that I'm aware of is for the old pen and paper Fighting Fantasy RPG/gamebook series—three stats: Skill, Luck, and a HP-equivalent. It gets away with that by saying that all normal weapons do much the same damage if they hit at all. There's no built-in magic system, but the simplest of the bolted-on ones has magic cost HP. (There's no leveling system either.)

A more workable system would have about five stats: HP, MP, speed (how fast the character can act, how successfully s/he can run away), physical ability (governing the character's ability to hit and dodge), magical ability (cast spells and resist magic). Each weapon gets one stat (damage), each piece of armour gets one stat (damage absorbed). The flow of battle for a physical attack then goes like this: compare physical ability + a random for the attacker and the target. If the attacker's result is higher, the blow connects. Damage inflicted is weapon damage + random, and the target's armour absorbs as many damage points from the weapon as it can; the remainder is passed through and deducted from the target's HP. The algorithm can be tweaked by altering the range of the random numbers.

None of the Final Fantasy games from IV on actually requires much level-grinding—just completing most of the random battles the game throws at you (rather than running away) will get you in good enough shape to face the final boss, assuming you also complete most of the sidequest content and stick with the same group of characters where possible. Optional bosses are a different kettle of piscenes, of course, but you don't have to beat them to finish the game. CT/CC, being from the same studio at around the same time, probably use much the same technique, and one of the things that frustrated me about Crimson Echoes was that it wasn't balanced that way.

tushantin

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Re: Chrono Spiritual Successor Brainstorm Session (Come and join the fun!)
« Reply #213 on: June 22, 2013, 11:22:30 am »
2D vs. 3D doesn't really affect gameplay style all that much.
It does (a bit), but we'll get into that later.  :) I'm fine with anything, now that Lua seems to be pretty capable of boiling our recipe for an RPG.

So is everyone content with the gameplay I mentioned in my previous post?

Taking into account of Alfador's, I'll flesh the mechanics further:

Most of the stuff will be blatantly ripped off from here: http://www.chronocompendium.com/Term/Stats_and_Status_Ailments_%28Chrono_Trigger%29.html

Important Stats: HP, MP, Strength, Agility, Vitality, Intelligence.

HP and MP are "regenerative"; that is, they restore bit-by-bit every second (or at least the MP does; HP restores every minute, unless you gain a passive ability like Wolverine). Strength determines Attack. Agility determines how fast a character moves, how swiftly it attacks, and how much it can "dodge" physical attacks. Vitality determines the amount of HP and regeneration, as well as Defence. Intelligence determines MP and regeneration, as well as Magical Attack and and Magic Defence. (Or shall we substitute "magic" with "Energy", considering many scientists in the team would be relying on sciencey Fusion or Plasma, or something?)

If we're going by THE mechanics I've stated, we've got an advantage: Marle and Lucca's weapons are no longer useless. While Ayle and Crono like characters tank from the front, Lucca and Marle can attack from behind. Having Archers and Snipers in the line of fire is a stupid idea. Way to go, Kato...

But if we're having a CT-similar system with two AIs following the player, then we hit upon a problem... How do we program the AIs well enough, depending on the characters we choose? We'll have to do so one-at-a-time, and I wonder if programming them will be labor intensive...
« Last Edit: June 22, 2013, 11:25:34 am by tushantin »

alfadorredux

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Re: Chrono Spiritual Successor Brainstorm Session (Come and join the fun!)
« Reply #214 on: June 22, 2013, 12:26:03 pm »
Well, I did say "all that much"—I admit it does a bit.

Good AI is difficult, and coding it depends on how the combat engine works. Of course, bad PC AI may be less of a problem if the monster AI is even worse...

Acacia Sgt

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Re: Chrono Spiritual Successor Brainstorm Session (Come and join the fun!)
« Reply #215 on: June 22, 2013, 12:55:22 pm »
I still think it's unneeded to have that Battle/Explorere Mode gimmick, at least for this initial project. Anyway...

Regarding allied AI, if it proves to be too much we could always just go for just one onscreen character but being able to switch. We could even implement the characters having a skill that can be used on the map to merit the switching around other than just for different fighting styles and stuff, kinda like how they do it in Lufia Curse of the Sinistrals.

tushantin

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Re: Chrono Spiritual Successor Brainstorm Session (Come and join the fun!)
« Reply #216 on: June 22, 2013, 12:58:10 pm »
Good AI is difficult, and coding it depends on how the combat engine works. Of course, bad PC AI may be less of a problem if the monster AI is even worse...
So, for a simpler mechanism and to avoid the AI problem, an easier approach would be a universal "pattern-based" battle, huh? Check this video for reference: http://youtu.be/_4ziElfzKHg

Basically: Move, move, Attack 1, Move Move, Attack 2, Move Attack 3, Move, Heal, Repeat.

And we could add to that: If Health < 20%, then heal; If Health < 25%, then unleash Dark Matter (30% chance).

But... how's that gonna affect gameplay? How do we "tweak" gameplay decisions to fit around this?

I still think it's unneeded to have that Battle/Explorere Mode gimmick, at least for this initial project.
I concur.

Regarding allied AI, if it proves to be too much we could always just go for just one onscreen character but being able to switch. We could even implement the characters having a skill that can be used on the map to merit the switching around other than just for different fighting styles and stuff, kinda like how they do it in Lufia Curse of the Sinistrals.
You mean like Contra Force (never played Lufa Curse of the Sinistrals)? Sweet! We'll take it.

Thought

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Re: Chrono Spiritual Successor Brainstorm Session (Come and join the fun!)
« Reply #217 on: June 24, 2013, 01:53:22 pm »
A more workable system would have about five stats: HP, MP, speed (how fast the character can act, how successfully s/he can run away), physical ability (governing the character's ability to hit and dodge), magical ability (cast spells and resist magic). Each weapon gets one stat (damage), each piece of armour gets one stat (damage absorbed).

I would propose that this can be effectively simplified further. I wont bore you with the details of my thought process, but your mention of pen and paper RPGs got me thinking about the history of stats, and how (or where) they developed (from). So, perhaps the stat work can be shoved off onto equipment, thereby reducing total stats to just HP, Attack Damage, and MP. Or, in other words, three equipable classes of items. Armor grants any and all HP, a weapon (including items that allow for magic attacks) produce the damage stat only (probably in the form of a range of damage, like 2-8), and some other item that grants MP in the same manner as armor grants HP (that is, permanently lost when used). To hit, damage reduction, speed, resistance, etc. can all be tossed as interesting but ultimately unnecessary sophistication of the basic conflict resolution system.

To add a level of customization, though, perhaps each character has an ability list that is developed through story points. For example, find Robin of Scherlocksley and she'll train one person how to use Longbows. The player gets to select who learns that ability. Or the player find the Magic Johnsmith and he'll teach one person the "repair armor" spell. And so on.

Additionally, I'd propose going with a slightly Metal Gear Solid view of enemies: they are things to get past, but not necessarily defeat. If the party is trying to sneak into a factory, you can do this through fighting the guards, if you wish, but you can also do so through sneaking by, and both are valid. If we add in a time travel component, some of this sneaking could be done by shifting through time periods or the sort.

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Re: Chrono Spiritual Successor Brainstorm Session (Come and join the fun!)
« Reply #218 on: June 24, 2013, 04:13:10 pm »
I still think it's unneeded to have that Battle/Explorere Mode gimmick, at least for this initial project.
I concur.

I was just tossing out an example of how you could merge RPG flavor and Action-RPG fighting. I think calling the concept a gimmick is undeserved as it's basically the way Secret of Mana, Zelda games, and Elder Scrolls attacks work, and those are not gimmicky battle systems at all. Can't attack without your weapon drawn, and once it's out a button that would've done something else now attacks. There's nothing flashy or difficult to understand about it. A gimmick is just a poor use of a good tool, and most (if not all) of the ideas being shared here could become gimmicks if not properly implemented.

But whatever, the end result is the same, you guys don't like it. As a matter of fact, I kinda wish you'd just said that. It's less aggravating.

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Re: Chrono Spiritual Successor Brainstorm Session (Come and join the fun!)
« Reply #219 on: June 24, 2013, 04:33:53 pm »
I was just tossing out an example of how you could merge RPG flavor and Action-RPG fighting. I think calling the concept a gimmick is undeserved as it's basically the way Secret of Mana, Zelda games, and Elder Scrolls attacks work, and those are not gimmicky battle systems at all. Can't attack without your weapon drawn, and once it's out a button that would've done something else now attacks. There's nothing flashy or difficult to understand about it. A gimmick is just a poor use of a good tool, and most (if not all) of the ideas being shared here could become gimmicks if not properly implemented.

But whatever, the end result is the same, you guys don't like it. As a matter of fact, I kinda wish you'd just said that. It's less aggravating.

Don't misinterpret my words. Your post mentioned about both enemy and NPC having different behaviors depending if you had the weapon drawn or not. Many RPG's don't use this "feature" (since apparently you don't like the word "gimmick"), and I think the small project shouldn't either, as it's not really necessary since it's, well, a small project and we shouldn't cram a lot of and/or complex mechanics (I mention complex in the sense of how much coding it'll need to be added in comparison to not adding it in).

And don't put words on my mouth. I never said I didn't like it. What I only said is that is not needed for the simple project that will be done first, for the reasons I already explained in the above paragraph.

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Re: Chrono Spiritual Successor Brainstorm Session (Come and join the fun!)
« Reply #220 on: June 24, 2013, 07:26:30 pm »
Don't misinterpret my words. Your post mentioned about both enemy and NPC having different behaviors depending if you had the weapon drawn or not. Many RPG's don't use this "feature" (since apparently you don't like the word "gimmick"), and I think the small project shouldn't either, as it's not really necessary since it's, well, a small project and we shouldn't cram a lot of and/or complex mechanics (I mention complex in the sense of how much coding it'll need to be added in comparison to not adding it in).

And don't put words on my mouth. I never said I didn't like it. What I only said is that is not needed for the simple project that will be done first, for the reasons I already explained in the above paragraph.
My point was simply that you completely dismissed my entire statement by calling it a "gimmick". The word has a meaning and a negative connotation.  I didn't think I misinterpreted or put words in your mouth, I just thought it was kind of mean. If that wasn't your intent, all is forgiven. Even if it was your intent to be mean (which I doubt), I don't care much for arguing over it, but thanks for clarifying your meaning.  :wink:



Moving on, if the real problem you have with the idea is that you think it would be too complex to use, I can understand that. However ironic, I was trying to offer a simpler system idea than what Tush was coming up with (which is creative and ambitious, but I think far more complex). It'd be even simpler to just have an "attack" button, but at some point there is a line you have to traverse carefully between a rewarding rpg experience(even a short one) and a repetitive action/fighting game.

I think the Scott Pilgrim game is a good example of an attempt at a short game that tries to combine several elements from other games but ultimately fails and ends up playing as yet another beat-em-up side-scroller. It has rpg elements, but only the bare minimum (collecting money from fights and spending it on items and equipment, getting experience and levelling up) and these elements are inconsequential in the long run. You can beat the game without collecting anything and the leveling is unnecessary, it only makes the game go by faster. Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed the game, but it doesn't really do a good job at what it's trying to do, which is feel like a classic 8bit game or a mashup of several of them, or something. There are homages and nods to other games, like Final Fantasy, Super Mario, etc, but the references don't have much depth to them. If you have access to it, try it out. Just don't do that to Chrono is all I'm asking.

A collection of nods and winks does not a spiritual successor make.

Basically if it's supposed to be like Trigger/Cross and it's not an rpg, it'd better be super fun.
« Last Edit: June 24, 2013, 07:43:17 pm by Mr Bekkler »

tushantin

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Re: Chrono Spiritual Successor Brainstorm Session (Come and join the fun!)
« Reply #221 on: June 25, 2013, 12:19:31 pm »
I still think it's unneeded to have that Battle/Explorere Mode gimmick, at least for this initial project.
I concur.
But whatever, the end result is the same, you guys don't like it. As a matter of fact, I kinda wish you'd just said that. It's less aggravating.
I'm sorry, I didn't mean to aggravate you. XD

When I said I "agree" with not using the "gimmick" (in Acacia Sgt's words), I know I could have elaborated on why I did so. It's not because the idea was a gimmick (or wasn't). It was because it may be technically difficult to pull of. Not the programming -- that's easier -- but I'm talking about the sprites-creation (unless we go the 3D route).

I personally have no problems with this. But there's also an art to keeping things simple and enjoyable, while using minimum resources.

That said, because I'm from a different culture, I actually take the word "gimmick" not by connotation but definition. Basically something creative and unique, but may not exactly be relevant to the gameplay (and hence your idea that it's only a gimmick if it isn't put to use properly, so I'd like to know where you're going with this). But no worries; we can always make adjustments to the gameplay later to include this, if it's needed. Currently, we're only going for the bare essentials.

So, perhaps the stat work can be shoved off onto equipment, thereby reducing total stats to just HP, Attack Damage, and MP. Or, in other words, three equipable classes of items. Armor grants any and all HP, a weapon (including items that allow for magic attacks) produce the damage stat only (probably in the form of a range of damage, like 2-8), and some other item that grants MP in the same manner as armor grants HP (that is, permanently lost when used). To hit, damage reduction, speed, resistance, etc. can all be tossed as interesting but ultimately unnecessary sophistication of the basic conflict resolution system.
I actually like that idea, but when taken into account of "Few-but-Crucial" inventory that we've got going here, this idea becomes nearly useless... unless we can somehow refine it to fit into the core idea.

Alfador, would it be a far-fetched idea to have a FF2-style stat-system, where you gain stats based on what you go through in battle? Such as taking much damage would equal to gaining HP, or attacking more would make you gain more Attack stat? How complex is it compared to contemporary stats-system?

To add a level of customization, though, perhaps each character has an ability list that is developed through story points. For example, find Robin of Scherlocksley and she'll train one person how to use Longbows. The player gets to select who learns that ability. Or the player find the Magic Johnsmith and he'll teach one person the "repair armor" spell. And so on.
We can go a step further with Quests. Ordinarily you'd have to teach yourself how to use a skill / weapon from Level 1, but Quests would help any character quickly master it to Level 5 and begin the real game from there. However, while quests give you "quick-learning", taking it the hard-way -- by teaching yourself -- you gain some "extra bonuses". It's not too different from how Pokemon Emerald handles it: You can level your characters with Rare Candy, but you don't get the bonuses that they get by actually battling it out.


Additionally, I'd propose going with a slightly Metal Gear Solid view of enemies: they are things to get past, but not necessarily defeat. If the party is trying to sneak into a factory, you can do this through fighting the guards, if you wish, but you can also do so through sneaking by, and both are valid. If we add in a time travel component, some of this sneaking could be done by shifting through time periods or the sort.
This could go hand-in-hand with not only CT-style system, where most enemies can be avoided, but also the fact that you gain "nothing" (but a couple of stats) by involving yourself in meaningless duels, when you've got a giant bomb to deactivate. This would not only amplify the need of stealth, but also prime our gamers' brains to not procrastinate when handling an important pressuring task.

In other words, our game would be a psychological tonic for those who play it. Something like what Zen and contemporary Buddhism teaches. "Don't get involved in meaningless battles; focus your energy, and keep your eyes on the prize." :wink:

...I was trying to offer a simpler system idea than what Tush was coming up with (which is creative and ambitious, but I think far more complex).
You've lost me there... I'd like to know what about my suggestion was more complex, because I put a lot of thought into making this as simple as possible. Primarily, it may or may not be difficult to have pixel-based 8-directional movement (with Lua, not Ruby) and I think Alfador can correct me or support me here on that. Also, the mouse-target may not be too difficult either, since all we're planning is clicking on an object, DOTA-style, and the character attacks. It's not too different from button-press to attack on keyboard.

But maybe you've seen something I haven't. So please elaborate.

Basically if it's supposed to be like Trigger/Cross and it's not an rpg, it'd better be super fun.
Indeed. It's the fun we're aiming at, not the Nods-and-Winks and definitely not a rip-off, but we're definitely not anxious of influence either.  :wink:

Think of it this way: The original Sherlock Holmes was a simple Mystery genre with its own flare, and nothing more. Pastiches since have tried to "capture every bit of that flare" without actually getting innovative, save for a few out there, and because of this the pinning influence like insects began to slowly kill the literature classic simply because they were trying too hard to create spiritual successors to Doyle's classics.

But then came Young Sherlock Holmes (by Andrew Lane, not Spielberg). It had nods-and-winks, but those were actually relevant to the plot and hence ingeniously used. It had the flair of intelligence from the originals, but without being entirely bound by the classics. Instead of a Mystery, this new pastiche was a Thriller -- an entirely different genre, but still one of the truest spiritual successors to the canon.

Even if we get into the context of gaming, we could agree that Radical Dreamers put off gamers as a sequel due to being non-RPG, but wasn't actually bad -- quite the contrary! It was a rightful spiritual successor despite being entirely different, despite being eclipsed by Chrono Cross. And if RD could do it, why can't we?

Also, I'd implore people not to take my statements to mean that I don't want an RPG. I actually do want an RPG! But my preference and bias won't restrain my creativity when coming up with something entirely new or better. I'm the kind of fellow who ditches the anchor of focus to be able to fly with limitless spirit (though I agree this has its own shortcomings). In other words, I'm simply adapting to make sure wherever we go we actually end up succeeding.

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Re: Chrono Spiritual Successor Brainstorm Session (Come and join the fun!)
« Reply #222 on: June 25, 2013, 02:24:37 pm »
Alfador, would it be a far-fetched idea to have a FF2-style stat-system, where you gain stats based on what you go through in battle? Such as taking much damage would equal to gaining HP, or attacking more would make you gain more Attack stat? How complex is it compared to contemporary stats-system?

From my understanding, this could potentially be much easier to code than a traditional EXP system, since we wouldn't need to code enemies giving EXP, the characters gaining it, the structure with quantities and values for the leveling up, then the stat ups for each leveling up if the stat ups were dynamic, etc.

For the former it'd be just a matter of coding various commands of "If X then Y", in a matter of speaking, then just make X be an increasing value for every time Y happens via a counter sort of thing.

Well, I'm probably just seeing this via Turbo C (I think it was Turbo C) language, since that's the only programming structure I've studied up.

Thought

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Re: Chrono Spiritual Successor Brainstorm Session (Come and join the fun!)
« Reply #223 on: June 25, 2013, 05:40:59 pm »
I actually like that idea, but when taken into account of "Few-but-Crucial" inventory that we've got going here, this idea becomes nearly useless... unless we can somehow refine it to fit into the core idea.

Well, it will also depend on the length of the game. Three weapons for each character might not seem like much, unless the game is just a half hour long. "Few-but-critical" wouldn't fit with "items=stats" over a long game, but if the game itself is shorter, the two ideas might mesh nicely.

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Re: Chrono Spiritual Successor Brainstorm Session (Come and join the fun!)
« Reply #224 on: June 25, 2013, 06:42:23 pm »
So, perhaps the stat work can be shoved off onto equipment, thereby reducing total stats to just HP, Attack Damage, and MP. Or, in other words, three equipable classes of items. Armor grants any and all HP, a weapon (including items that allow for magic attacks) produce the damage stat only (probably in the form of a range of damage, like 2-8), and some other item that grants MP in the same manner as armor grants HP (that is, permanently lost when used). To hit, damage reduction, speed, resistance, etc. can all be tossed as interesting but ultimately unnecessary sophistication of the basic conflict resolution system.

Vandal Hearts 2 uses a system like that, IIRC.

I actually like that idea, but when taken into account of "Few-but-Crucial" inventory that we've got going here, this idea becomes nearly useless... unless we can somehow refine it to fit into the core idea.

Alfador, would it be a far-fetched idea to have a FF2-style stat-system, where you gain stats based on what you go through in battle? Such as taking much damage would equal to gaining HP, or attacking more would make you gain more Attack stat? How complex is it compared to contemporary stats-system?

Basically, that only requires adding a few hooks to the combat system (and possibly the magic system, if any). For instance, for a successful attack, if the attacker is a PC, he exercises his attack stat (whatever it may be). If he's exercised it x number of times, the stat goes up. Each stat does become two variables, but they're not especially difficult to track or manupulate. The trick is to balance things so that the player doesn't end up spending a lot of time grinding against low-level monsters (punishing grinding doesn't work nearly as well as making it unnecessary in the first place!).

One of the more . . . hmm, I'll say "agreeable" . . . exercise-based systems I've played is the skill system from the indie roguelike/RPG GearHead (cf. gearheadrpg.com ). It allows you to raise skills by exercising them, by using undifferentiated experience points to buy skill levels, or by paying a trainer NPC to exercise your skills for you. That doesn't qualify as a simple system, though.

You've lost me there... I'd like to know what about my suggestion was more complex, because I put a lot of thought into making this as simple as possible. Primarily, it may or may not be difficult to have pixel-based 8-directional movement (with Lua, not Ruby) and I think Alfador can correct me or support me here on that. Also, the mouse-target may not be too difficult either, since all we're planning is clicking on an object, DOTA-style, and the character attacks. It's not too different from button-press to attack on keyboard.

The most difficult part of eight-directional pixel-by movement is dealing with collision detection (if you're curious, tush, that demo I was passing around elsewhere uses 2px as the minimum movement distance). As for mouse-clicking, if the PC must first move to the target, potentially with obstacles in the way, you need some form of pathfinding (A* is the most common, and not especially complicated if you're dealing with limited amounts of space). In the absence of obstacles, it reduces to ray-casting, more or less (that is, you draw a line between the PC and the enemy and have the PC walk along it until he makes contact). If the player can't use mouse control to move to something, I'd suggest forgetting about the mouse and using either a keyboard control or just bump-to-attack.