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Persona 4 Post-Mortem Tells You What Went Right, Wrong

"In the end, we all wish for our next project to be an action game."

 If I may offer some advice about that action game you'd all like to make, how about a character action game starring this 'Chie' character? Eat steaks to recover health!
Gamasutra has a fascinating article from the team responsible for Atlus' Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 4. I... don't know if you've heard of this game, but it's a pretty amazing PS2 role-playing game that was held back here and there by the occasional interface quirk and some unclear structure. But hey, I'm just some dude who played the game. The article, attributed to "Persona 4 Team," briefly covers the "what went right" and "what went wrong" side of the game.

Here's what I feel is the biggest "wrong" about the entire game...

2. Real-time weather design: Unlike in the previous title, Persona 4's time limit for each dungeon was affected by the in-game weather. We did this with the belief that such a system would create the feeling of urgency, since the player didn't know when damage-causing fog would appear. 

However, when we implemented it in the game, players were inclined to make dungeon investigation their first priority. Their mentality was, "If I don’t know when the fog appears, I should finish the dungeon as soon as possible." As a result, dungeon crawling and working on the inter-character Social Links, which are equally important, became completely separate and imbalanced. 

We tried to compensate by adjusting the weather, in-game messages and story progression, but that created an unexpected workload. A huge amount of data could not be finalized until the weather was set, but the weather kept changing due to our design adjustments.

I would also add something like "fusing isn't clear to people who haven't been following the series" to that list. Parts of the game felt almost impenetrable at first, and even after seeing well over 100 hours of the game, I only feel partially closer to making sense of that stuff. Anyway, if you're interested in RPG design, it's a good, quick read. Also, if I may read into this a bit, these guys sure don't sound like they're in the right frame of mind to pick up development and move it to the PS3 for another sequel just yet. Jeff Gerstmann on Google+
130 Comments
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Posted by IcySandman
@CrazyManAndy said:
" Chie with a bulge. Mmm...now that's hot. "
Posted by growl
@SpiritOf said:
" @MrKlorox said:
" I'm not into cartoon ladies with crotch bulges and hairlips. "
That's not what your momz told me. "
what are you, 8?
Posted by Gregomasta
@growl said:
" @SpiritOf said:
" @MrKlorox said:
" I'm not into cartoon ladies with crotch bulges and hairlips. "
That's not what your momz told me. "
what are you, 8? "
I dunno, that was pretty funny for a 8 eight year old.
Posted by LordAndrew

The fusion system is rather complex, and its intricacies are not easily explained.
That said, I felt the game's attempt at explaining the basics of fusion (which Jeff and Vinny never actually read) did a pretty good job.

Posted by Bartman3010

If they want to go with an action game...might want to try and make it into an adventure game. At least somewhat. 
 
Perhaps make more puzzles in the dungeon crawling areas to make it a little similar to the Mario RPG games in terms of puzzle solving?

Posted by MrKlorox
@Gregomasta said:
" @growl said:
" @SpiritOf said:
" @MrKlorox said:
" I'm not into cartoon ladies with crotch bulges and hairlips. "
That's not what your momz told me. "
what are you, 8? "
I dunno, that was pretty funny for a 8 eight year old. "
Yup. Any "your mom" reference is automatic comedy gold. No matter how inane. >_>
Posted by Spiritof
@MrKlorox said:
" @Gregomasta said:
" @growl said:
" @SpiritOf said:
" @MrKlorox said:
" I'm not into cartoon ladies with crotch bulges and hairlips. "
That's not what your momz told me. "
what are you, 8? "
I dunno, that was pretty funny for a 8 eight year old. "
Yup. Any "your mom" reference is automatic comedy gold. No matter how inane. >_> "
When there's a fish in a barrel, I shoot it.
Posted by DazzHardy
@Blueblur1:  Thanks
 
And if there's anything else you guys could tear into it and help make it better, please go right ahead.  Never improve if people don't point out massive bulging mistakes I miss ;;>_>
Posted by Media_Master

Full on action game sounds cool coming from these guys

Posted by Hailinel
@LordAndrew said:
" The fusion system is rather complex, and its intricacies are not easily explained. That said, I felt the game's attempt at explaining the basics of fusion (which Jeff and Vinny never actually read) did a pretty good job. "
Yeah.  They could have actually gotten much more information on the fusion system quite easily had they read through the tutorials by talking to Igor.
Posted by SatelliteOfLove

I'm kind of amazed that they didn't mention a "shuffle button" for fusions, as it is one of those good quality of game things mentioned previously, and on the ER itself many a time.
 
Also, Jeff: P4 is surprisingly easy on fusion learning; there isn't any real drive to get great persona till the 65+, and even then there are fusion fodder like Tzitzimitl late in the game, in addition to ringers (some of which you used, Senri, Black Frost, and Tam Lin). 
 
Nocturne on the other hand, which I cut my SMT teeth on, oh, the difference.

Posted by Max_Power_

Persona and Persona 3 on PSP, hmmmmmmmm... me thinks me crystal ball is lighting up

Edited by RVonE

Interesting article. I agree that they don't seem to be in the mindset for another persona just yet. Then again, I'm not ready for one either. 
 
For now, how about some Chie: 
 
Posted by heatDrive88
@PenguinDust said:
"I think you folks criticizing the drawing in this article should chill out.  It was obviously created by a member and I think you are being unnecessarily harsh.  But, it wouldn't be the internet if people weren't finding fault with any little detail.  Way to live up to the stereotype. "

Nobody is really criticizing the artistic depiction or style of the drawing. It's simply the fact that IT LOOKS LIKES SHE HAS A PENIS

But if you dig anime-tranny porn or something... well... Cool story bro.
Posted by CommodoreGroovy
@Hailinel said:
" @LordAndrew said:
" The fusion system is rather complex, and its intricacies are not easily explained. That said, I felt the game's attempt at explaining the basics of fusion (which Jeff and Vinny never actually read) did a pretty good job. "
Yeah.  They could have actually gotten much more information on the fusion system quite easily had they read through the tutorials by talking to Igor. "
I think they could do the explanation in a more meaningful, direct way, reading through tutorials isn't necessarily broken, but it's not a great way of explaining how mechanics work. Perhaps having a voiced-over demonstration with Igor's voice queuing the tutorial on, who knows? My point being is that I can't read through a blanket of text, going over something that I'd understand more if they had a visual and or audio aid to accompany it, and if I cannot read it, I'm likely to believe other people will get turned off as well. 
Posted by Hailinel
@CommodoreGroovy said:
" @Hailinel said:
" @LordAndrew said:
" The fusion system is rather complex, and its intricacies are not easily explained. That said, I felt the game's attempt at explaining the basics of fusion (which Jeff and Vinny never actually read) did a pretty good job. "
Yeah.  They could have actually gotten much more information on the fusion system quite easily had they read through the tutorials by talking to Igor. "
I think they could do the explanation in a more meaningful, direct way, reading through tutorials isn't necessarily broken, but it's not a great way of explaining how mechanics work. Perhaps having a voiced-over demonstration with Igor's voice queuing the tutorial on, who knows? My point being is that I can't read through a blanket of text, going over something that I'd understand more if they had a visual and or audio aid to accompany it, and if I cannot read it, I'm likely to believe other people will get turned off as well.  "
While the tutorial structure could have been more directly informative, I don't think it was necessarily as bad as Jeff and Vinny really made it out to be.  My first experience with the Megami Tensei fusion style was through Persona 3.  I read the tutorials, and there was still some learning as I went, but I think part of the fun I had with it was learning some of the details through trial rather than being shown.
Posted by FluxWaveZ
@Hailinel said:
" @CommodoreGroovy said:
" @Hailinel said:
" @LordAndrew said:
" The fusion system is rather complex, and its intricacies are not easily explained. That said, I felt the game's attempt at explaining the basics of fusion (which Jeff and Vinny never actually read) did a pretty good job. "
Yeah.  They could have actually gotten much more information on the fusion system quite easily had they read through the tutorials by talking to Igor. "
I think they could do the explanation in a more meaningful, direct way, reading through tutorials isn't necessarily broken, but it's not a great way of explaining how mechanics work. Perhaps having a voiced-over demonstration with Igor's voice queuing the tutorial on, who knows? My point being is that I can't read through a blanket of text, going over something that I'd understand more if they had a visual and or audio aid to accompany it, and if I cannot read it, I'm likely to believe other people will get turned off as well.  "
While the tutorial structure could have been more directly informative, I don't think it was necessarily as bad as Jeff and Vinny really made it out to be.  My first experience with the Megami Tensei fusion style was through Persona 3.  I read the tutorials, and there was still some learning as I went, but I think part of the fun I had with it was learning some of the details through trial rather than being shown. "
I agree.  When I first experienced fusing in Persona 3 FES, I immediately got it.  1 Persona + 1 Persona = 1 stronger Persona, and that's really all it comes down to.  Certain Persona can learn certain moves and certain arcana of Persona fused together will make another specific arcana, but really, who cares?  You can learn all the intricacies of fusing if you want to, but that's really not necessary for success in fighting in the game.  I read the tutorials, and sure there were some things I did not grasp (some I still don't), but after a few fusions, I understood it pretty much.  Fusing really is not that intimidating.
Posted by endaround

The big thing is the manual provides you with a 1x1 fusing table for arcana which is really helpful in targeting persona of arcanas you have high SLs in.

Posted by CommodoreGroovy
@FluxWaveZ said:
" @Hailinel said:
" @CommodoreGroovy said:
" @Hailinel said:
" @LordAndrew said:
" The fusion system is rather complex, and its intricacies are not easily explained. That said, I felt the game's attempt at explaining the basics of fusion (which Jeff and Vinny never actually read) did a pretty good job. "
Yeah.  They could have actually gotten much more information on the fusion system quite easily had they read through the tutorials by talking to Igor. "
I think they could do the explanation in a more meaningful, direct way, reading through tutorials isn't necessarily broken, but it's not a great way of explaining how mechanics work. Perhaps having a voiced-over demonstration with Igor's voice queuing the tutorial on, who knows? My point being is that I can't read through a blanket of text, going over something that I'd understand more if they had a visual and or audio aid to accompany it, and if I cannot read it, I'm likely to believe other people will get turned off as well.  "
While the tutorial structure could have been more directly informative, I don't think it was necessarily as bad as Jeff and Vinny really made it out to be.  My first experience with the Megami Tensei fusion style was through Persona 3.  I read the tutorials, and there was still some learning as I went, but I think part of the fun I had with it was learning some of the details through trial rather than being shown. "
I agree.  When I first experienced fusing in Persona 3 FES, I immediately got it.  1 Persona + 1 Persona = 1 stronger Persona, and that's really all it comes down to.  Certain Persona can learn certain moves and certain arcana of Persona fused together will make another specific arcana, but really, who cares?  You can learn all the intricacies of fusing if you want to, but that's really not necessary for success in fighting in the game.  I read the tutorials, and sure there were some things I did not grasp (some I still don't), but after a few fusions, I understood it pretty much.  Fusing really is not that intimidating. "
Right, fusing personae isn't rocket science. But to someone who has no experience with this genre, it can feel very foreign and difficult. Like Jeff has said in one of his blogs, the genre is growing into a taller and taller wall, that is only accessible to those who are already well-versed in the gameplay. RPG developers need to concentrate on having accessibility for their games mechanics in a direct and meaningful manner, so you don't exclude the newcomers.
Posted by Hailinel
@CommodoreGroovy said:
" @FluxWaveZ said:
" @Hailinel said:
" @CommodoreGroovy said:
" @Hailinel said:
" @LordAndrew said:
" The fusion system is rather complex, and its intricacies are not easily explained. That said, I felt the game's attempt at explaining the basics of fusion (which Jeff and Vinny never actually read) did a pretty good job. "
Yeah.  They could have actually gotten much more information on the fusion system quite easily had they read through the tutorials by talking to Igor. "
I think they could do the explanation in a more meaningful, direct way, reading through tutorials isn't necessarily broken, but it's not a great way of explaining how mechanics work. Perhaps having a voiced-over demonstration with Igor's voice queuing the tutorial on, who knows? My point being is that I can't read through a blanket of text, going over something that I'd understand more if they had a visual and or audio aid to accompany it, and if I cannot read it, I'm likely to believe other people will get turned off as well.  "
While the tutorial structure could have been more directly informative, I don't think it was necessarily as bad as Jeff and Vinny really made it out to be.  My first experience with the Megami Tensei fusion style was through Persona 3.  I read the tutorials, and there was still some learning as I went, but I think part of the fun I had with it was learning some of the details through trial rather than being shown. "
I agree.  When I first experienced fusing in Persona 3 FES, I immediately got it.  1 Persona + 1 Persona = 1 stronger Persona, and that's really all it comes down to.  Certain Persona can learn certain moves and certain arcana of Persona fused together will make another specific arcana, but really, who cares?  You can learn all the intricacies of fusing if you want to, but that's really not necessary for success in fighting in the game.  I read the tutorials, and sure there were some things I did not grasp (some I still don't), but after a few fusions, I understood it pretty much.  Fusing really is not that intimidating. "
Right, fusing personae isn't rocket science. But to someone who has no experience with this genre, it can feel very foreign and difficult. Like Jeff has said in one of his blogs, the genre is growing into a taller and taller wall, that is only accessible to those who are already well-versed in the gameplay. RPG developers need to concentrate on having accessibility for their games mechanics in a direct and meaningful manner, so you don't exclude the newcomers. "
The same could be said of other genres, though.  Accessibility is something that any developer needs to be aware of.  At the same time, make things too accessible and you risk sacrificing complexity that veterans desire.  The only way I could see myself enjoying an RTS game is if it were dumbed down to the point that anyone that made it through the campaign of StarCraft would feel insulted.
Posted by CommodoreGroovy
@Hailinel:  TouchéBalance is key in situating a formula, from what I read of the post-mortem they did lots of tweaking on Persona 4. No matter how frustrating the process was, it really made Persona 4, an outstanding quality product. I just believe one of the things they should have tweaked was a better explanation of the mechanics of the velvet room.  
 
Speaking of which, I really crave some Persona now. *pops disc into tv*
Posted by AtariV8
@Hailinel said:
" @CommodoreGroovy said:
" @FluxWaveZ said:
" @Hailinel said:
" @CommodoreGroovy said:
" @Hailinel said:
" @LordAndrew said:
" The fusion system is rather complex, and its intricacies are not easily explained. That said, I felt the game's attempt at explaining the basics of fusion (which Jeff and Vinny never actually read) did a pretty good job. "
Yeah.  They could have actually gotten much more information on the fusion system quite easily had they read through the tutorials by talking to Igor. "
I think they could do the explanation in a more meaningful, direct way, reading through tutorials isn't necessarily broken, but it's not a great way of explaining how mechanics work. Perhaps having a voiced-over demonstration with Igor's voice queuing the tutorial on, who knows? My point being is that I can't read through a blanket of text, going over something that I'd understand more if they had a visual and or audio aid to accompany it, and if I cannot read it, I'm likely to believe other people will get turned off as well.  "
While the tutorial structure could have been more directly informative, I don't think it was necessarily as bad as Jeff and Vinny really made it out to be.  My first experience with the Megami Tensei fusion style was through Persona 3.  I read the tutorials, and there was still some learning as I went, but I think part of the fun I had with it was learning some of the details through trial rather than being shown. "
I agree.  When I first experienced fusing in Persona 3 FES, I immediately got it.  1 Persona + 1 Persona = 1 stronger Persona, and that's really all it comes down to.  Certain Persona can learn certain moves and certain arcana of Persona fused together will make another specific arcana, but really, who cares?  You can learn all the intricacies of fusing if you want to, but that's really not necessary for success in fighting in the game.  I read the tutorials, and sure there were some things I did not grasp (some I still don't), but after a few fusions, I understood it pretty much.  Fusing really is not that intimidating. "
Right, fusing personae isn't rocket science. But to someone who has no experience with this genre, it can feel very foreign and difficult. Like Jeff has said in one of his blogs, the genre is growing into a taller and taller wall, that is only accessible to those who are already well-versed in the gameplay. RPG developers need to concentrate on having accessibility for their games mechanics in a direct and meaningful manner, so you don't exclude the newcomers. "
The same could be said of other genres, though.  Accessibility is something that any developer needs to be aware of.  At the same time, make things too accessible and you risk sacrificing complexity that veterans desire.  The only way I could see myself enjoying an RTS game is if it were dumbed down to the point that anyone that made it through the campaign of StarCraft would feel insulted. "
That's not what your mom told me.
 
You guys need to keep with the theme of the thread! ;)
Posted by FluxWaveZ
@AtariV8: This is the theme of the thread.  "What went right, wrong" is even in the title.
Posted by sneakysnake128
@CommodoreGroovy said:
" @Hailinel:  TouchéBalance is key in situating a formula, from what I read of the post-mortem they did lots of tweaking on Persona 4. No matter how frustrating the process was, it really made Persona 4, an outstanding quality product. I just believe one of the things they should have tweaked was a better explanation of the mechanics of the velvet room.    Speaking of which, I really crave some Persona now. *pops disc into tv* "
Great job. Now you have to go back in the Shadow World to get it.
Posted by CommodoreGroovy
@sneakysnake128: lol
Posted by Lind_L_Taylor

Waitaminnit.  Endurance run?  Persona 4?  What are these things of which you speak?

Posted by allhailthetv

Wnile I do admit that I could not brave the impenetrable fog of fusing at first, I managed to pick it up eventually. It helps that you can't make that much in the beginning. The weather was just fine, though.

Posted by scarace360

I hope it comes to the ps3 i would love to see what they could do with a blue ray. 200 hour game anyone. Or hell persona 4 FES that would also be cool.

Posted by Hailinel
@scarace360: Atlus has already come out and said that there will not be a FES version of Persona 4.  That of course does not rule out the possiblity of a portable version, at the very least, but I doubt we'll be seeing a PS3 version of the game any time soon.
Posted by ch3burashka
@scarace360 said:
" I hope it comes to the ps3 i would love to see what they could do with a blue ray. 200 hour game anyone. Or hell persona 4 FES that would also be cool. "
Games are measured by their quality, not quantity: I put in 120 hours into P3 (mostly because I grinded a lot) and felt it was approximately 20 hours too long. Unless they have enough content to fill 200 hours (not grinding), no thank you.