Friday, January 16, 2015

BGP: Mavens, Champions, and Replayability

Art by dashinghero.
     Last week I mentioned that there were 4 gyms, 5 champions and a villain organization, but was careful not to give specifics. I did that because this explanation is worthy of its own post. Battle Gem Ponies does things a bit differently than Pokemon so I wanted to briefly explain what these 3 very important game elements are about.

Mavens


     Mavens are this game's equivalent to gym leaders. There is a gym lead by a maven in each major city and defeating one earns you a badge and a special move you can teach to your pony. The special move is contained in an item known as a move tutor (MT for short). You can reuse MTs as often as you like, and getting one in story mode unlocks that move for use in multiplayer.

     What makes mavens so challenging is the way they battle. Unlike Pokemon's gym leaders, mavens will have well balanced teams with customized AI that takes advantage of advanced strategies unique to that team. You also have to fight them Pokemon Stadium style by going in with a pool of 6 ponies to choose 3 of for each match and beating 7 other trainers before reaching the maven (with a chance to heal after rounds 4 and 7). This is meant to make these matches feel like an official event you take part in. Rules that apply in PvP are set here to get novice players prepared for the metagame.

     This world has a piece of technology that forces the level of a pony to a certain number as long as the pony is within range. This is known as a Parity Field. Parity fields are active in every gym so there's no point in grinding so you can overpower them easily. This allows me to craft a challenge the player has to think through rather than bulldoze. The parity for gym battles starts at a low level, but with each new badge the level of the next gym jumps to something higher.

     As an example, let's say you fight in a gym with a parity of 50. This means that if your pony is under level 50, it gets boosted temporarily and has access to level 50 moves while you're competing, but any moves that require a higher level are unavailable.

     Once you've earned all 4 badges you can go back to each gym for a rematch, this time without the maven holding back. There are no parity fields up this time so their teams have a much higher level and you get to keep all your moves. You'll see the same team, but you may face a different trio or see mavens using powerful moves they didn't have before. Fighting them multiple times is fun because you're likely to face different ponies every time.

     It makes for interesting post game content when you can revisit the major cities and have these mini tournaments to level up and earn money as much as you like. You also get a new MT for beating the gym a second time. It's usually an even more powerful signature move of theirs.

Champions


     Every region in the world of Battle Gem Ponies has 5 champions. The best of those champions is titled the Grand Champion. Every year a tournament is held where trainers who have collected all of that region's badges have a chance to compete for a position among the champions.

     Unlike with mavens, there are no parity fields for the championship matches. You'll be leveling up as you go and fighting teams of high level competitors. If you're one of the 3 contestants that makes it out of the preliminaries you face off against the 5 strongest trainers in reverse ranking order. You start with the 5th best and work your way up to the Grand Champion.

      When a champion is defeated, that champion and all the champs below them get pushed down a rank. The person in the 5th position loses the title of champion completely. All the champions fight you in succession but you have the option to have your entire team restored at the cost of a large percentage of the prize money awarded at the end. If you choose not to heal between rounds you get rewarded with rare items in addition to the prize money once you beat the grand champion. However, if you lose at any point, you only get the rank you earned (no additional prizes).

     The championship is a bit like a game show that way. It's a huge super bowl style event that the entire region is watching. Stakes are high and the player is rewarded for taking risks. In the game world this structure makes sense, but for story reasons the player has to win. If you lose the championship, the protagonist blacks out and you restart from the end of the last round you survived with the option to heal again.

     Once you've beaten the game you can face the champions again (in a non-title match) at the stadium in Ivory City. You'll face them all in a row with a parity field set to level 100 for tons of money and another valuable prize (equivalent to Pokemon's master ball).

Paragon Cartel


     The Paragon Cartel is comprised of mobsters seeking power and fortune. It is led by a mysterious man named Donovan and his 4 executives. You'll be thwarting many of their schemes on your adventure and your intersecting destinies will lead to encounters with the legendary alicorns of day and night.

     Each of the executives has a pair of complimentary pony classes they prefer to use in battle, leading to some interesting themed encounters. In addition to these top dogs there are minions known as Grunts led by captains called Troopers who do most of the dirty work for the higher-ups. You'll be fighting plenty of these guys on your quest. In fact, a pair of grunts trigger events that lead you to meeting your own pony in the story.

     Events with the Paragon reach a climax after you collect all the badges. They invade your hometown and you retaliate by sneaking into their secret headquarters for a final confrontation with Donovan, only to encounter another surprise.

     Another name I'm considering for this group is the Paragon Corps. Or maybe the Paragon Gang is simple and effective. Even though they'll mostly be referred to as Paragon or The Paragon, what do you think the full name should be? Does this sound like a game that's worth $5? Let me know what you think about Battle Gem Ponies so far in the comments.

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