Here it is, the first post in what I’m sure is my highly anticipated series on game design innovations. (Somewhat arbitrarily) at number ten: the Active Time Battle system.
The earliest RPG’s I played all used a turn based battle system. At the beginning of each round, the player would input the commands for each of his characters, and then the round would play out. It was tedious and silly, but it was what we had.
Final Fantasy IV was the first game that I played that used a more “realistic” battle system. The player would input commands for individual characters as their turn arrived, basically doing away with the round concept. Battles became much more dynamic and, dare I say it, fun.
Active Time Battle dramatically improved the flow of battles in role playing games, and I’m always stumped when new games come out with round by round combat (Dragon Quest IX, I’m lookin’ at you!). ATB made RPG’s more accessible and more fun, and I would argue it paved the way for eventually integrating more and more RPG elements into other genres. Ok, that may be a bit grandiose; let’s just say that ATB moved RPG’s into a better place.