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Reduced-Downtime Features

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"It's been a while since I had to use my brain this much."
Dante, commenting on one of the few puzzle levels in Devil May Cry 5

In games, particularly Role Playing Games, it usually becomes necessary to take a moment after the action (usually battle) to take stock and get ready for the next engagement. However, as games trend more and more toward action, features are introduced to reduce the necessity for players to have any downtime at all between action.

Here are a few common ways:

  1. Reducing and removing inventory management. In early games, players often had to keep track of what was in their inventory themselves and/or where they placed a particular object. In extreme cases, a game could be Unintentionally Unwinnable because a player lost or forgot where they placed a plot-crucial item. Later games fixed this by reducing the amount of items that can be stored, auto-sorting items via menus, making plot-critical items undroppable and/or not taking up inventory space, or flat out undoing an inventory altogether.
  2. Healing and refreshing. After characters engage in combat or other action, it's often necessary to heal the party, refresh their magic or repair their items/weapons/armor before continuing. Later on, games opted for Cooldowns instead of Mana or Magic Points, reduced or removed item degradation, make healing occur naturally during action, or automatically replenish any of the above after the action has passed.
  3. Streamlined levels or stages. Levels have often been used to introduce players to increasingly-difficult challenges which requires specific skills or knowledge to complete and often, a player's progress is halted until the challenge the level provides is overcome. However, in some games, levels are meant to create an experience for the player and wants the player moving from one experience to another with as little interruption as possible. To this end, levels may avoid any sort of puzzles, platforming, problem-solving and, sometimes, even combat or danger of any kind so as not to disengage the player from what they're meant to experience.
  4. Easier or more convenient travel. In Wide-Open Sandbox titles or games with an Overworld map, a Zip Mode, Warp Whistle, or Global Airship can reduce the amount of time a player needs to get from level to level. Most games save these options for either the endgame or after the player has already visited a location once, so as not to eliminate exploration altogether and to have tighter control on which areas the player can visit.

See Anti-Frustration Features, which are features added to remove the frustrating aspects of gameplay, which this can certainly overlap with. See also Video Game Delegation Penalty for when utilizing these features leads to a less desirable result.

Super-Trope to Bag of Holding, Inventory Management Puzzle, After-Combat Recovery and Regenerating Health, No Sidepaths, No Exploration, No Freedom.

Compare and contrast the Sliding Scale of Linearity vs. Openness. Also contrast Fake Longevity. Compare Out-of-Turn Interaction for ways to keep a player engaged outside of their turn.


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    Action Games 
  • Devil May Cry 5: Compared to the previous Devil May Cry titles, this game doesn't focus on puzzles and the level designs are significantly streamlined to minimize backtracking. While there are a few "keys" that the player has to search for to progress through a level, the need for them is drastically reduced compared to the labyrinthine puzzle-solving that needed to be done in the previous entries. Also, the time-consuming Combat Adjudicators from Devil May Cry 3: Dante's Awakening and Devil May Cry 4 are no longer present here. These reduced features leave the game largely focused on action.
  • Metroid: Other M: The level design differs from previous games in the franchise by focusing on traversing from room to room, with very few branching paths and doors that are prone to lock behind the player to prevent Backtracking. Also, rather than the usual way of refilling health and ammo by collecting drops of defeated enemies, the concentration move allows players to refill both instead of farming enemies for drops or running back to a recharge station.
  • The Legend of Zelda:
    • One of the main reasons the Water Temple in The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time reached legendary That One Level status (to the point where the game's designer personally apologized for it) was the fact that the Iron Boots, a key item to completing the dungeon, weren't assigned to an equippable button; instead, players had to pause the game, go to the Equipment screen, highlight the Boots, switch them, and then unpause. Since Link has to quickly change between the Iron and Kokiri Boots throughout the temple—sometimes multiple times in the same room—this slowed progress throughout the already-labyrinthine dungeon to a crawl. Updated versions of the game, such as the Master Quest redesign and 3DS remake, made the Boots an item players could assign to a C-Button instead (as Wind Waker and Twilight Princess both had done), saving players a good deal of time and boosting the Water Temple's popularity.
    • From The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess onward, the games have been moving away from the traditional Mana Meter. This is best exemplified by The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds which tied all previously resource-consuming items (wands, bow, bombs) to a regenerating "stamina meter", eliminating the need to leave a dungeon to replenish/farm items.
  • Overwatch — refining a Hero Shooter formula from examples like Team Fortress 2 — added a universal rule that all heroes have infinite reserve ammunition for their primary weapons. While most still have finite magazines and need to reload, there's no need to scour for ammo packs and take them out of the fight, keeping the focus on individual gunplay and the management of hero ability cooldowns. Some heroes who have swappable primaries (such as Mercy or Torbjörn) automatically reload their guns after a short period of equipping their alternate tool.

  • Angband included a weapon tagging system, which allows applying a number to an inventory item rather than worry about its letter, along with a tags that requires confirming use of certain "dangerous" or resource-critical items. A rest command allows restoring health in negligible real-time when no monsters are around. A run command that allows quickly traversing through corridors. An "interact" command that takes a contextually obvious action for a given tile. And finally, a macro system to automate some things, allowing for one button rests. There's still the need to eat from time to time, but the game was as streamlined as a roguelike in that family could be.
  • Dungeon Crawl has auto-exploration and auto-rest. Auto-exploration lets your character explore the dungeon automatically, stopping only when monsters or certain kinds of loot come into view. Auto-rest lets you rest in one place automatically, stopping when your HP or MP is fully regenerated, when your status effects dissipate, or when a monster approaches. These features reduce downtime from the player's point of view, but not from the character's: you don't take fewer turns, you just take many uneventful turns instantaneously.

    Japanese RPGs 
  • Disgaea 6: Defiance of Destiny adds several new features that help minimize the amount of time spent outside of grinding. Healing is now done automatically for free after every stage (outside of Item World), there are shoutcuts for facilities bound to a radial menu using the bumper buttons, and you can accept as many quests as you want. Moreover, the game adds a slew of Gameplay Automation with customizable AI and Item World Research lets your characters in the sideline do it for you (at a slower pace). This on top of the fact Chara World is removed means most of the tedious leveling work can be automated with you coming to check back now and then to adjust some settings.
  • Dragon Quest V: This is the first game to introduce a bottomless side-inventory, a feature that persisted in all further installments of the series. While the characters have limited inventory space in battle, their pack can store any number of items.
  • Dragon Quest XI: The first two entries on the "Misc." section of the menu are Heal All and Handy Heal All. Heal All fully heals everyone with one click. Handy Heal All heals everyone with one click, but won't spend a full healing spell to top up your last few HP.
  • Final Fantasy:
    • Final Fantasy VII: This title began the trend of Final Fantasy games being extremely linear early on, only opening up after the first disc.
    • Final Fantasy XIII: The game notably lacks towns to explore or to shop at, instead making the universal save points the location where the player can save their game, shop for items and gear, craft and upgrade, and level up their abilties. Furthermore, all hit-points are automatically recovered after each battle, and the early game offers no branching paths for exploration.
    • The two MMO installments of the series established their own trend towards this trope.
      • In Final Fantasy XI, to recover health, a player needed to hit a dedicated Rest button that recovered quickly, but you could do nothing else while resting and it made enemies more likely to attack you and interrupt it. In Final Fantasy XIV, health recovers much, much more quickly than in FFXI, without the specific use of an action.
      • While travel in FFXIV was also much easier than in FFXI, there were complaints in the 1.0 version about how much fast travel cost, and the developers admitted that they made traversing areas to be somewhat tedious to encourage "exploration". They listened to player feedback when A Realm Reborn was released by making fast travel much easier to perform, adding new fast travel points that weren't there before, and also allowing the use of mounts for faster travel. Later patches also increased mount speed and, starting with the expansion zones, allowed mounts to fly — and eventually even allowed players to fly on maps where it previously hadn't been available.
  • In earlier Persona games, the player would have to open up a menu after battles and then select items or a particular spellcaster and manually choose to heal up to an acceptable point. Persona 5 simplifies that to a simple button press which will automatically select a character with healing spells who isn't currently in the frontlines and use some of their SP to heal the party up to maximum.
  • Tales of Berseria: Although players can use artes or items to heal themselves during or after battles, or use the cooking system that returns from previous titles, the primary way healing is done is via Break Arts, which not only extend a combo but also heal a significant portion of a character's health. This system allows the player to heal themselves naturally through careful and proper gameplay. Also, artes don't use MP, instead being usable as long as the player has met certain conditions and completes the casting time. These features mean it's possible to move from battle to battle with little to no downtime at all.
  • Xenoblade Chronicles X: There are very few healing arts in the game (with the most powerful one, Smooth Recovery, only available in the US edition or Japanese DLC). To heal consistently, players have to perform Quick-Time Events that allow them to combo abilities with their teammates. This allows the player to focus entirely on the battle and not need to stop and heal. Also, abilities work via a Cooldown feature, and health automatically regenerates outside of combat.
  • Xenoblade Chronicles 1 and Xenoblade Chronicles 2:
    • The games go out of their way to reduce between-battle maintenance as much as possible. Characters rapidly auto-heal outside of combat. All battle actions are either on a cooldown or charge meter system, so long-term resource management is a non-issue. Basic offense is an auto-attack, so the player can freely focus on using their special skills more effectively. In short, the player party is always in peak condition for battle, and the player doesn't need to think about conserving resources for later.
    • The games also make getting places as easy as possible. Skip Travel allows returning to any point of interest at almost any time as fast as loading screens allow. This does lend itself to Gameplay and Story Segregation and Take Your Time kicks in hard, but these become Acceptable Breaks from Reality when the player can get anywhere in the massive game world on a whim without having to drag themselves to some sort of formal travel network.
    • Xenoblade Chronicles 2 removes the unique NPC schedules of the first game in order to make quest givers significantly easier to find, as well as making them visible on the map from a far greater distance than before. Additionally, the number of quest givers is greatly reduced, as most of the more basic sidequests have been moved the the Blades' affinity charts and are given to players automatically.

    Western RPGs 
  • Divinity: Original Sin II:
    • Inventories can be auto-sorted by various criteria; an optional feature adds a set of bags that automatically pack specific categories of items. Characters in a party automatically access each other's inventories for things like keys, tools, and quest items.
    • Armor Points refresh outside of combat. Portable bedrolls can be used when enemies aren't nearby to refresh the party's hit points; an optional feature lets bedrolls resurrect dead PCs and refresh their Source points.
    • Player characters can fast-travel to any Waypoint they've already visited within the same Act. They can also find a set of reusable, portable "teleport pyramids" that can be activated to transport the user and any attached characters to any of the other pyramids.
  • Mass Effect:
    • The first Mass Effect used Armor As Hit Points (more accurately, shields) which depleted first before the player's health did. Shields, however, also had to be activated by abilities. The game's healing item, Medigel, could be used to heal—as could various powers. Also, the game had a complicated inventory system which was difficult to sort through. Weapons also used an "overheat" feature whereby ammunition was unlimited as long as the gun didn't overheat—after which, the gun required a cooldown.
    • Mass Effect 2 took the approach of many contemporary shooters by making health and shields automatically regenerate while not taking damage. The game has no real inventory to speak-of, as Medigel is treated as a universal ability (as long as there's one on hand), and weapons are selected from a loadout. And its main purpose is to revive fallen comrades. However, it also changed the overheat system into more traditional ammunition, so most post-battle downtime was dedicated to searching for ammo.
    • Mass Effect 3 attempted a middle ground by allowing shields to regenerate while not taking damage, but not health. The game also introduced ammo boxes to reduce downtime from ammunition scavenging. In addition, several abilities had beneficial effects which allowed them to instantly replenish health or shields, while others could use shields as a cost rather than cooldown, reducing downtime in battles, too.
    • Mass Effect: Andromeda brought back the missing RPG elements from the first game, but kept 3's approach to shields and health. There's also a limited inventory. Medigel, however, has been replaced with shield and health boxes which, much like ammunition boxes, can refill shields and health as long as the box has charge. The game also introduced Forward Stations, which replenish everything if the player is within proximity to one. This allows players to move from one battle to another with almost no downtime whatsoever. There are consumable items to replenish these things as well, but they're usually saved for a last resort.

    Survival Horror 
  • Last Day on Earth: Survival
    • Every player starts with a quick-access pocket and an invisible ten-slot backpack. Thanks to stacking of items, this means any player can carry 220 large rocks (or even gold bars) around without even slowing down.
    • All foods include an instant health boost, including the almost-ubiquitous berries.
    • Crafting is not only very fast but mostly independent of tools, chemistry or thermodynamics.
  • Resident Evil:
    • Resident Evil 0: Previous games required the player to travel to item boxes if they wanted to swap items or discard one for later use. This game allows players to drop items wherever they are and pick it up again. This was a mixed blessing, as though it removed the need to run to an item box, it also created the real possibility that a player would forget where they dropped or left a crucial item, requiring them to backtrack everywhere in the hopes they could find it.
    • Resident Evil 4: Unlike previous games in the series, the inventory system of this entry takes the form of an attache case with limited grid squares that determine how much Leon can carry. A player with good organizational and space-management skills can carry a large number of weapons and items simply by making efficient use of the grid. Also, key items needed to unlock doors or solve puzzles were no longer carried in the player's inventory but in its own separate space, thus eliminating the need to make difficult choices when trying to solve puzzles.
    • Resident Evil 5: Unlike the previous game, all items take up the same amount of space regardless of size. While this means that a handgun takes the same amount of space as a rocket launcher, it also means that the player does not need to carefully organize their space. This game also allowed players to map items to specific buttons or angles of their control sticks, thus allowing instantaneous swapping/usage. Necessary due to the cooperative nature of the game, which does not pause the gameplay while the inventory is open.
    • Resident Evil 6: This game utilizes a scroll wheel to quickly access the player's inventory, thus allowing for quick use. Further, any mixable items (like herbs) are automatically highlighted so that players do not have to manually select them each time.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Carcassonne: In the original rules, you draw a tile and place it during your turn, leaving you with nothing to do while waiting for your next turn. A variation instead has everyone draw a tile at the start, place a tile during their turn and redraw at the end of their turn, which gives players a chance to plan out their next move.
  • Dungeons & Dragons: Prior to Fourth Edition, characters recover only a limited number of Hit Points with a full night's rest, short of healing magic or other powers. Fourth and Fifth Editions heal characters completely with a long rest and add the option to recover some hit points with a short rest during the day, reducing the need for magic or extended convalescence.
  • Fabula Ultima uses a renewable resource called Inventory Points to abstract the minutiae of inventory management. Player characters can spend Inventory Points to produce single-use consumables like health potions or damage-dealing elemental stones on the fly, and they can replenish their IP by spending money while the party is at a town or visiting a merchant. Weapons, armor, and accessories must be bought the old-fashioned way, however.
  • The One Ring: Traveling Gear is kept abstract and is assumed to include anything that makes sense for a traveling adventurer to have, as well as anything appropriate to the Player Character's profession and wealth level. Gear is assumed to be replenished whenever the characters visit a settlement, so as not to take up too much of the party's time with minutiae.
  • Paranoia has embedded into its combat system an alternative to the slower-paced combat systems of its contemporaries. Essentially, instead of worrying about hexes and distance and action points, a player just says their planned action and the GM allows or disallows it.
  • Wingspan: The Asia expansion adds support for 6-7 players. To decrease downtime, it introduces a mechanic that has two players take turns at once.