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Preface: So, this is a sort of cross-disciplinary question that combines RPGs, game development, and User Experience. I have previously asked this question on the gamedev stack exchange and I received a suggestion that this stack may be a better fit for my question. If this is still felt to be in the wrong stack, please feel free to move it. Anyways, to my question.

I am creating a small scale JRPG as a personal game project - think Dragon Warrior I from the Princess' perspective, with her also being the hero who will defeat the Big Bad. On the field view of the game, I provide the ability to open the game's Main Menu...

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Most JRPGs - in fact, I'm pretty sure starting with the first Dragon Warrior - provided some set of 'field magic'. 'Field magic' are abilities that you can use in the field - the most common are healing spells such as Cure/Cura/Curaga/Curaja from the Final Fantasy franchise, but there other cases exist, like Return from Dragon Warrior, or Strength from Pokemon, which are abilities that either provide mobility (Return allows you to return to any previously-visited city), or provide additional map capabilities (Strength allows you to kick boulders one tile in the direction that you are facing.)

In this game, I will not be allowing menu-activated abilities from the map, but I'm well aware that there is a precedent for allowing the player to see all abilities that they have acquired through the course of the game, even if they're in a context where they can't use them (for instance, being on some field, and not in a battle encounter.)

Question: in this particular case, is it absolutely necessary that I include the ability to review what abilities a protagonist has? Or, is it OK to leave the presentation of combat abilities to the game's combat state?

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Excuse my ignorance, bt can you expand on a 'field view.' As in, when is it displayed? I think it's from the map(?), but is it just presenting items that can be used at that time, or is it more generally used to review the particular status? –  rgthree Apr 9 at 18:07
    
By 'field view' I'm referring to a map, such as the world map, a town, a dungeon, or a special location. By a battle encounter, I'm of course referring to when the player is in combat with an enemy. –  Andrew Gray Apr 9 at 18:32

2 Answers 2

up vote 2 down vote accepted

Within the context of the map and the users' behaviors within the map navigation, providing a link to manage combat abilities seems irrelevant from a UX perspective. Almost a distraction.

I would suggest keeping the interaction focused on what the user is most likely there to accomplish in that space. Perhaps, allowing a user to launch into combat mode from the map mode would be logical.

If you get overwhelming feedback from several users explaining their desire to manage combat abilities from a map screen, then you'll have to make a decision to either satisfy the user need or control the experience based on the business need.

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Is it absolutely necessary? No. However, does it make sense? I think so.

As you said, you are providing "the ability to open the game's Main Menu." A main menu takes the user out of the current context.

If it was a "map menu" or an "actions menu" then I think you could more easily restrain the context to that of only what is capable at that time. However, with a main menu, I would expect to see or get to anything applicable in the system (based on your menus and screens). Maybe they are listed right there as status, maybe there's a separate menu to see combat skills, etc. but I think if I'm truly at the main menu, then I should be able to quickly get to or review what I need to without restraint.

Aside from that, I think you could ask yourself a series of questions, out of the context of a JRPG:

  1. Is there value to showing unusable items?
  2. Is other information here shown only for review? If so, what's the justification for withholding other reviewable information? (ie: health is shown, but not magic? etc.)
  3. Will users become worried they have lost items if they not see them here?
  4. Will users who use similar products expect to see all items, usable or not, on this screen?
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