Monday, March 5, 2012

Random Battles Take Too Long

I've said it before, and I'll say it again.

I’m a fan of the traditional (J)RPG formula. I love taking my ragtag group of characters from their humble village where nothing exciting is happening and going on a life-changing journey to save the world from some egomaniacal madman who wants to rule/destroy the world. It’s a classic story, and as much as some people seem to tire of it, I still love it.

The formula isn’t perfect, and one of the tropes that has been hanging around for a long time with mixed levels of acceptance is the random battle. Your party is walking along, doing their own thing, when, out of nowhere, a gang of imps tries to eviscerate them with a Lv. 1 Dull Knife attack. Most of the time, individual random battles aren’t anything to be concerned about, but even the easiest of them manage to eat up a fair amount of time.

I put together the following video that looks at battle times for a bunch of games. It times the "buffer" times for battles, which I am defining as follows:
  • the time from when you start an encounter to when you gain control of your character/party
  • the time from when you defeat the last enemy to when you get back to whatever you were doing before you were interrupted
It's not the absolute minimum times for battles, but it can give you a good idea of how long you'll be sitting around waiting, doing nothing.

Now, these aren't all that long, at first glance. Heck, the longest one I measured, Final Fantasy VII, is only 15.9 seconds long. The problem is that these times will be multiplied hundreds or thousands of times over the course of the game. Say, for example, that you fight a total of 500 battles over the entire course of the game. At 15 seconds per battle, that works out to 125 minutes over the course of a game, or a little over two hours. Sounds a little obnoxious when you do the math.

Note: the same applies to loading screens, where a load time of only a couple seconds more or less can make a difference of minutes or hours saved or lost over the course of an entire game.
Interestingly, the games that have shorter times also tend to be the ones for which I have overwhelmingly positive memories. Maybe my brain subconsciously logged all the time I spent doing nothing and deducted it from my internal score of the game, or maybe it didn’t. Whatever the case, I’m of the opinion that less time spent waiting and doing nothing is always a good thing.

What do you think about random battles? Are they too long?


  1. I don't mind them as long as there's variety. If a place has 7 or 8 types of enemies then random battles stay fresher than the dreaded mega dungeon with 2 (and only 2) encounters. That being said, loading times like the one in that Chrono Trigger psx battle can make me turn off a game, but thankfully that seems to be mostly a thing of the past now. As an example, FFIX has some pretty long battle times, but by the end I got used to it and enjoyed it.

    Random battles frustrate me the most when I'm lost in a dungeon. When all I want to do is find a staircase, but I get disoriented every 8 seconds because a group of slimes ambushes me, then I get upset. Whenever I get lost or am forced to grind, random battles very quickly lose their appeal.

  2. Yeah, the PS1 Chrono Trigger load times are obnoxious. It's 2-5 seconds at the start and finish of every battle. And every time you change maps. And every time you open the menu or close the menu.