Ideas/Features that were cut:
Originally, at the beginning of chapter 3, Alistair and co. find themselves as prisoners in a pirate town. They are forced to compete in a tournament, gladiator-style. That particular tournament is rigged and basically a long quest chain rather than an actual tournament. Several people liked the idea of competing, however, and I'd planned to make a real tournament (prizes and all) for it later in the game.
However, outside Alistair's ultimate weapon, there was nothing significant to be gained from the tournament. It was a completely optional section of the game that would have involved heavy eventing, balancing and testing. With a lot of time and feedback, I probably would have managed to make it interesting enough for the player. In the end, however, I decided it was not worth delaying the game completion for.
2) Field Skills
This was probably the toughest feature to cut, as I love the idea of using skills to interact with the environment. Originally, I was going to use field skills for things like reaching chests on high ledges, opening up shortcuts between areas or skipping certain puzzles. Two problems arose. The first was that having field skills sometimes forced the player to have a specific party members with them. Those party members may not have been as useful in the rest of the area (i.e. battles). To make things easier, I also planned on having key items that accomplished the same skills as the characters.
The second problem was that these skill places involved creating custom character poses, as well as creating somewhat elaborate movement and effect mini cut-scenes. Given how much graphical and eventing work already has to be done, I did not want to add even more.
So, I removed the idea of field skills, but kept the special key items. The environment will still play a role, but the player has more freedom with the party make-up.
3) Crafting System
The crafting system was predominantly done for upgrading equipment and for creating some potions via alchemy. Sam is an alchemist, so it made sense story-wise to give him a laboratory. However, Sam doesn't join until a little later in the game- by which point the player has received a ton of potions and money that can be spent on potions, on top of having characters that can heal. After working out the equipment and the items for the database, I realized that there really isn't a big number of items that would need to be crafted.
Instead, there will be side-quests that upgrade equipment or reward the player with consumables.
4) Party Camp
Specific spots on the map would allow the player to teleport to a camp where the party members are. You could talk to party members and give them gifts - basically, a way to further the idea of relationships.
Player can do the same thing in the base, however, as well as in towns where the party is split up. So, the party camp idea was removed for redundancy.
5) Trade Market
I had the neat idea to have trade markets instead of regular shop. The player would basically trade certain items (ex. random monster loot) for useful consumables or even equipment upgrades. While it's a fun idea, my major concerns were that it would either not be used or that the player would feel like they have to grind to get certain items.
I've gone back to regular shops, where the player can choose when and how to spend money. I will still have at least one side quests that will have the player trading items, but it will be optional.
6) Extra Languages/Currency
There are actually several different cultures in Caeta, so I wanted to add a touch of realism by giving them various languages and currencies. It would have been something akin to the Al Bhed language in Final Fantasy - over time, the text would be translated as the player gets dictionaries, etc. The currencies would operate via currency exchange. The player would go to the bank in a new area and exchange their money for the local currency - with some variation for the exchange rate, etc. The local merchants would only sell items if the player had enough of the local currency.
Although the idea was very fun, it would become a hassle to have to switch currency on various continents (especially in quests that carry over several areas). Given the nature of the plot, the player would have also occasionally found themselves with money they can't spend.
The language required a script that I was not able to make work. I thought about doing it via eventing, but the event would have been complicated and I'm not sure that the player would have enjoyed the idea enough to justify spending extra time on it. Instead, there will be other languages peppered in the regular chatter and a translator will be provided for areas that do not speak the party's language.
7) Training Dojos
Nic's skills revolved around animals and animal forms. Originally, the plan was to have her visit various dojos around the world where masters would teach her animal forms- mainly via a puzzle section and a boss battle.
The problem with this idea is that Nic was the only character that had to train like this, and that these dojos were entirely optional. The rest of the party learned through levels or through equipment. I was worried that having a completely different way to acquire skills would be too much work for some players and that they'd end up not using Nic - which is definitely not something I'd want to see.
Instead, Nic is going to be learning all skills the same way others do, and the dojo idea is getting tossed into a different project.
Ideas/Features that were kept:
1) Party Relationship System
I kept it because it allows for more characterization, for a more individual play-through (and possibly adds a touch of replayability) and because it's the simplest way to create multiple endings. It's also one feature that was consistently praised and enjoyed by players.
2) Home Base/Lab
In the later half of the game, this becomes the major quest hub. Most of the quests that further the story will start and end there. It will also be the place to change party members, talk to party members (and give them gifts), upgrade equipment and shop. I'm hoping to have it be an evolving place that is decorated over time.
3) CTN (teleport system)
There is a long quest chain involved in unlocking and maintaining this system, but it will allow the player to quickly get from one place to another - and it will be usable from virtually anywhere. Since I don't have a conventional world map, it's an excellent way to avoid having to run through maps multiple times to get somewhere.
4) Artifact Museum
Completely optional area where the player can display treasures, trophies and other artifacts. The main purpose of the museum will be to have all historical and religious tidbits in one place. Though I'm planning to add a lot of information via NPC dialogue and bookshelves, I wanted to have a central place where the player can learn more about the world and past events. Time permitting, I may also have a kind of video-viewer that shows past cutscenes.
And, lastly, several of you wanted to see the party portraits. Here we are:
(From left to right: Cordelia, Claudia, Penelope and Nic)
(From left to right: Alistair, Sam, Ian and Ruben)
And there you have it! Phew, thanks for reading this giant wall of text.