Sodagirl, Takunomi's current project, very much plays like a japanese roleplaying game. Moé, the main character can select targets, and attack and manipulate them, with no notion of distance to the target. This seems very much less exciting than understanding the terrain and manipulating space in games like Dragon Age or Tactics Ogre.
Believing this, I went to my Fortress of Solitude (making sure I had enough toilet paper) and started thinking: If I don't have the component of space, how do I make interesting tactics?
Well what is space in a game? It a finite range of numbers across two or three axis. Yes I know that's a super boring way of thinking of it, but it allows me to consider alternatives.
Two that I can think of, that aren't missing in other games but might not have as much emphasis as space, are context and time.
Context is the space in the game rules: What status ailments are characters suffering, and what is the AI responding to. In Chess the castling move is dependent on context, though it manipulates space.
Time is the progress of the game. Card games have no sense of space either and therefore always rely on much time (rounds and turns) has passed.
I'm not saying these axis don't exists or are not used in other games. I am saying, to make up for lack of space in Sodagirl, I need to put extra emphasis on them.
A recent game that has contemplated these same notions, is Final Fantasy XV. Although it takes place in a visually 3d space, combat could very well be played from a top down perspective, with specific out of reach grappling points to hang from when combats becomes too intensive.
Furthermore, the main character, Prince Noctis, is able to teleport away from and towards enemies, simultaneously negating distances, always being able to enter a melee instantaneously, and gaining extra attack power from attacking from far away.
It's a wonderful combat system, and a lesser version would simply have relied on selecting a target pressing attack, or auto attacking, when in range, with no teleportation-based combat.
I think these thoughts make it clear, that when I design a game, I can't just accept a game as being 3d, 2d or menu-based, and with a real time or turn based combat.Indeed Hajime Tabata, director of Final Fantasy XV expresses the same willingness to question the given in this Vice interview:
I'm not sure that there were any elements from past games that I had to include.I need to think why a game needs to be one or the other, or if I can take apart these ideas and put them together differently, or with less parts that don't really necessarily matter.
The beautiful image at the top is from Pomico at http://pomiko2.tumblr.com/