It’s interesting how thoughts can differ/change over the years. Back in the days when I was young, my thoughts while playing a game mostly were in the area of “how to beat the game”, while nowadays design aspects also actively interest me. One specific early example would be the game Dragon Crystal (that I wrote about a while back). Mostly it’s just a basic rogue-like (one of the few on console at the time), but there was one element that I didn’t think much of at the time, but now I kind of wonder…
That specific element being the egg that follows you around from the start of the game. While levelling up, the egg hatches and from then on a dragon baby follows you, growing up as you gain more levels, in specific intervals. At the time I only saw this as an optical extra that gives the game a little bit more atmosphere, though I did find it neat. For quite a while I wondered if it would have some active role in the game at some point, but a year or so later when I finally beat the game once, nope, never happened. So I put that thought away and just enjoyed the game for what it was (can’t shake the suspicion that something else was in the design document that had to be cut, though).
Thinking back, there might have been a little more thought behind it though. Depending on what kinds of enemies you face, you can use the egg/dragon to prevent them from surrounding and attacking you from all four sides (as long as the enemies don’t have ranged attacks). You can also prevent enemies from (re-)entering a room by placing the egg/dragon in front of the entrance. Enemies don’t pass through the egg/dragon and melee attacks aren’t used on it. Ranged attacks simply pass through it, so you have to account for that while positioning yourself. Since the game is definitely stacked against you, as expected from a rogue-like, even something small like that in your toolkit is welcome honestly.
So while this particular design element probably didn’t take a very long time to think up and plan, it’s still a neat part of the game that sets it apart from the rest.