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Weekly Discussion on RPG Genre's flaws [Week 3 : Attrition]


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#1 Orymus3   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 6825

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Posted 08 July 2012 - 11:47 AM

Hi,

As a reference:
Week 2
Week 1

---

I've always been a big fan of the snes-era RPGs and thought about creating a series of discussions based around the flaws of the genre and how they could be assessed.

The discussion itself should be based around the topic that has been selected for that week (obviously).

Feel free to discuss either:
- The Problem (helping identify the root cause of why this isn't fun)
- The Solutions (either games you know who have found a workaround, or ideas of your own)


Whatever you feel like discussing here, please make sure that you add sufficient explanation/arguments to your logic as I take this intellectual exercise seriously and believe others will too.

---

This week's topic: Attrition.

During last week's discussion, it became obvious that we should discuss this. The general idea that RPGs need some form of difficulty, and that artificial difficulty (in the sense of tougher battles) would result only in grinding which, in some directions, leads to a lack of fun.
We've discussed potential ways to adress this, and one that was raised by the introduction (re-introduction should I say) of the attrition.

As a quick portrait, I'd like to quickly describe two important eras of jRPG design in regard to attrition:

1 - Late Nes / Early Snes era games (Dragon Warrior)
In this era, the party's inventory is fairly limited and items that allow to restore some stats are a few and generally hard to purchase. This arguably feels like Zelda: A Link to the Past (4 bottles of restorative items max).
In this era the focus is a lot about the journey. The game assumes battle will be relatively easy, but it expects you to make mistakes: spend more magic points than you should, or attempt to save on MPs but taking more hits than you should. The end result is that a bad strategy is punished by having to journey back to town and begin anew, fully stocked up.
Choosing when to heal is strategic.


2 - Later era (Final Fantasy Series)
In this era, the inventory size has dramatically improved and curative items are many and cheap.
In this era the focus is a lot more about individual battles though they are fairly easy too. Each battle resolves in the player having to use many curative items to restore to full. There isn't really choosing when to heal as you should always be pretty much full for the next battle although you'd certainly avoid spending a 100 hp regen item when 25 hp away from your cap.



So my question to you all is, how can attrition become a fun obstacle to overcome to add a layer of challenge not currently felt through battles themselves?

Feel free to supplement with games that use attrition in a different way.
Please note as well that I've restricted myself to attrition of combat, by lack of other references. If you know of other jRPGs that perform attrition in different ways (aside from damaging floor for example) feel free to discuss.

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#2 Acharis   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 3403

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Posted 08 July 2012 - 02:01 PM

All roguelikes (Crawl, Nethack, ADOM) use attrition (saving the healing potion for later) heavily. These are perfect example how it could work excellent way. But... These games work under assumptions of no free saves, when you are dead all saves are deleted. Is it possible to do it without disabling saves? Wouldn't such heavy restriction on resources usage lead to excessive (fun killer) number of saves a player is encouraged (forced) to perform?

Attrition alone can be done easily, it has been proven already by many roguelike games. But the tricky part is the save/load routine frequency...

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#3 Phil123   Members   -  Reputation: 606

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Posted 08 July 2012 - 02:19 PM

There's a series by the name of King's Bounty, where it's sort of like a tactical turn-based army verses army where your hero doesn't do much except cast spells, and you win the battle when all of the opposing units are defeated (vise versa for losing). Though your hero does effect your unit stats (5 attack, 5 defense means every unit gets 5 attack and 5 defense, basically, and the more Leadership points you have, the more units you can recruit) the main focus of battle is controlling your units.

Anyways, this game was STRICTLY balanced, such that if you lose too many units, you simply can't continue in the storyline (the king will give you some gold if you lose all of your units, but it's isn't really enough gold to get back on your feet right away). If you lose a battle (or lose any units that don't get resurrected), those units are permanently gone, unless you have the gold to purchase more. There weren't random battles, there were X enemies per area, and once you killed them, the only way to get gold was to A. find it, B. move on to a tougher area or C. find it in chests or do quests (which are limited as well). And what happens if you find a merchant that's selling really good units? Well, units are generally in short supply (the better ones, anyway), so even if you have 1,000,000,000 gold, you can't just "throw away" units all the time.

This provides the player with the general idea that he needs to minimize losses, and each class has their own way of minimizing unit losses (Paladin: good at resurrecting units, Mage: controls the flow of the battle with spells, or you can just use spells to kill them, Warrior: drastically increased unit effectiveness and increased army size).

So when the player takes all of these game facts/mechanics into account, they'll realize that they're fighting a war of attrition - whether or not you're doing well is completely up to how your battles have gone and how skilled you are tactically as a player, and how well you make decisions and minimize damage taken from your opponents. If you play poorly, then it'll catch up to you, but if you play really well, then you'll find yourself with extra units, gold, and equipment, which will make the really hard battles manageable.

I suppose I'm saying, if a game is very well designed and thoroughly tested, then attrition will provide a sense of accomplishment for the player when they reach certain points in the game.

Edited by Phil123, 08 July 2012 - 02:25 PM.


#4 Orymus3   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 6825

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Posted 08 July 2012 - 07:30 PM

no free saves


The idea of saving nodes restricts the ability of a player from saving the game. Inherently, this supresses the "hardcore" gambit of risk as everything you lose is just a tiny stretch of your journey as opposed to the whole. Yet, its more effective than the constant ability to save.

Attrition alone can be done easily, it has been proven already by many roguelike games


The somewhat sandbox nature of roguelikes makes it easy to start over and go a different path and live through that same experience again without any issue. In a narratively-driven such as a jRPG (which greatly differs from wRPG in that regard) that would amount to grinding through the same levels/story to get back to the point you were at which could be impressively more frustrating than the actual loss of user data as a result of player death.

if a game is very well designed and thoroughly tested, then attrition will provide a sense of accomplishment for the player when they reach certain points in the game.


Much easier said than done. Your post reflects on the practical implementation in an unrelated genre and assumes theoretical reciprocation to the jRPG. I'd be incredibly interested in how exactly you'd implement a similar system to the jRPG conventions. It may appear clear to you, but I think we're missing the key part to your argument here. It is easy to dismiss the problem to theoretical 'good design' but this is a wide concept which we're precisely trying to define here.

#5 Phil123   Members   -  Reputation: 606

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Posted 08 July 2012 - 08:22 PM

It may appear clear to you, but I think we're missing the key part to your argument here


The part of my argument that's important is that the player's resources (gold, units - in this case) were limited just enough such that the player actually gives a damn and tries to mitigate as much damage as possible, but said resources aren't limited to the point where the game is no longer fun. If I told you "rofl, you can't beat my game, it's too hard" and you beat it, you'd feel a sense of accomplishment as the player. In this game's case, the player is gently told "ha - if you don't play well, you're going to lose, not now, but 2 hours from now when you run out of resources" so when the player DOES play well, and they end up beating the game (or a boss, or achieving something in the game) they feel that sense of accomplishment. Yes, this doesn't directly correlate to jRPGs or other RPGs, but I just thought that their system was very well done, and that it would be a half decent example for this discussion.

As for actual RPGs, the way I see it, there's a few issues with attrition and the nature of RPGs. Here are some scenarios, issues, and possible solutions:

1. Character health/mana does not regenerate outside of combat -> if the player runs out of consumables, this means a lengthy trip back to town. If the player doesn't have enough money, they're forced to grind lower level areas until they have enough money or until they get stronger (common player response for a RPG - definitely a boring one, and I don't think this should ever happen). Possible solutions:

A. Monsters drop health/mana/restoration orbs when killed (very popular in action RPGs). Not enough to heal you to full every time, but enough so you can keep going.

B. Random spawns of restorative consumables on the ground (where you can pick them up and save them for later, or they automatically heal you). This encourages the player to explore, rather than waste their time grinding lower level mobs or going back to town for more items. (Hell, this actually reminds me of Halo, where your shields regenerate, but your health doesn't - the only way to restore your health is to keep exploring and hope you find a health pack).

C. When you're victorious in a battle, you receive a number of consumables that could be a percentage of how many you used. (Say, used 12 potions for a really hard fight, the player would receive 5-6 back in order to keep them exploring/fighting/biting off more than they can chew - but they wouldn't receive enough consumables such that they can spam heal themselves with items all day long)

2. Character health/mana regenerates to full outside of combat -> the problem with this when I see it implemented in some (keyword: "some.") RPGs is that this puts even more of a requirement on consumables than if your health/mana hadn't regenerated outside of combat. By starting every battle at full health and mana (basically, maximum strength or close to it), I guarantee you, 9 times out of 10, combat will be balanced such that it is much more difficult, and then you have the same issues as above, where you'll have to run back to town get more consumables, or whatnot.

Well, how the hell can you design a good system? Easy, by studying others'. I think BioWare did one hell of a job on Mass Effect 3. Basically, enemy strength is based off of your level, so there really isn't anything that is ridiculously hard because you're under leveled, or ridiculously easy because you're extremely strong. Enemies that are hard will be difficult regardless of level, enemies that are easy will be easy regardless of level.

In regards to attrition, you have an easy way to heal yourself and your squad mates if they die (Medi Gel). So how did BioWare limit the player's resources like the above game I referenced? Well, Medi Gel isn't the easiest thing to come by during a mission, and you can have a maximum of 5 (I think? it's been a while), so it's not like you can use them like candy. But here's the kicker, even if you run out of Medi Gel, you aren't done for. You still have your shields, and you can revive your squad mates if they die without Medi Gel (it just requires you being right beside them, reviving them).

That's another example, I hope I made it clearer than I did previously. I realize these aren't strict RPGs but hopefully someone can apply these ideas to RPG design and come up with some solutions that are better than the ones I listed above (because my solutions definitely aren't perfect).

Edited by Phil123, 08 July 2012 - 08:26 PM.


#6 sunandshadow   Moderators   -  Reputation: 4652

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Posted 08 July 2012 - 11:03 PM

I like games where health is more of a meter you balance, alongside mana, rage, or whatever; they erode in some situations and grow back on their own in other situations. I don't particularly like healing potions, especially in turn-based games where using one uses up a turn.

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#7 Orymus3   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 6825

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Posted 09 July 2012 - 07:37 AM

The part of my argument that's important is that the player's resources (gold, units - in this case) were limited just enough such that the player actually gives a damn and tries to mitigate as much damage as possible, but said resources aren't limited to the point where the game is no longer fun. If I told you "rofl, you can't beat my game, it's too hard" and you beat it, you'd feel a sense of accomplishment as the player. In this game's case, the player is gently told "ha - if you don't play well, you're going to lose, not now, but 2 hours from now when you run out of resources" so when the player DOES play well, and they end up beating the game (or a boss, or achieving something in the game) they feel that sense of accomplishment. Yes, this doesn't directly correlate to jRPGs or other RPGs, but I just thought that their system was very well done, and that it would be a half decent example for this discussion.


No disrespect intended, I fully understood your inclusion of this example and support it.

A. Monsters drop health/mana/restoration orbs when killed (very popular in action RPGs). Not enough to heal you to full every time, but enough so you can keep going.


Very popular in D3, but they have a different attrition factor known as durability. Including ways to soften the effect on HP is easier that way, at the expanse of an additional attrition meter. While it works for games centered around a single character, it can get cumbersome in rpgs with multiple characters as it adds yet another layer of complexity.
Not impossible to implement, just gotta be careful what you're taking out to make room for that.

B. Random spawns of restorative consumables on the ground (where you can pick them up and save them for later, or they automatically heal you). This encourages the player to explore, rather than waste their time grinding lower level mobs or going back to town for more items. (Hell, this actually reminds me of Halo, where your shields regenerate, but your health doesn't - the only way to restore your health is to keep exploring and hope you find a health pack).


Interesting, but works better with RPGs made out of procedural content. Nevertheless, I haven't seen that in any jRPG myself, so there might be something there.

C. When you're victorious in a battle, you receive a number of consumables that could be a percentage of how many you used. (Say, used 12 potions for a really hard fight, the player would receive 5-6 back in order to keep them exploring/fighting/biting off more than they can chew - but they wouldn't receive enough consumables such that they can spam heal themselves with items all day long)


The problem here is I think you're encouraging the player to heal, which, in and of itself, isn't necessarily fun. I think the key lies in having less healing, not more. A turn spent healing is a turn lost in battle, or a few seconds lost outside of battle. It is time not spent towards thinking about your strategy. Sure, occasional healing works, but there is a reason games such as Diablo 3 have moved away from their healing-frenzy loops. If anything, this mechanic encourages more healing, and as much as it can be a decent patch for the issue, I think it does encourage the problem rather than being a permanent solution.

2. Character health/mana regenerates to full outside of combat -> the problem with this when I see it implemented in some (keyword: "some.") RPGs is that this puts even more of a requirement on consumables than if your health/mana hadn't regenerated outside of combat. By starting every battle at full health and mana (basically, maximum strength or close to it), I guarantee you, 9 times out of 10, combat will be balanced such that it is much more difficult, and then you have the same issues as above, where you'll have to run back to town get more consumables, or whatnot.


I'm going to assume you're referring to the use of consumables "in-battle" rather than in-between fights correct? While this is a bit more fun, like I have previously stated, loosing too many mandatory turns to actions that are not strategically sound but only "necessary" IS boring as well.
Note that I am not against the player running back to town for items if he has messed up, I just don't think it should consume so much of the player's time in terms of resource management in and out of combat. As you're stating, this solution comes with the drawback that you're essentially taxing the player's actions with say, 10-15% turns spent towards using restorative items in combat (unless skills emulate that somehow).

That's another example, I hope I made it clearer than I did previously. I realize these aren't strict RPGs but hopefully someone can apply these ideas to RPG design and come up with some solutions that are better than the ones I listed above (because my solutions definitely aren't perfect).


Definitely. I think it just takes an extra effort to take the idea out of its genre's limits and apply it to a different game overall.

Thanks for your input Phil123, much appreciated.

they erode in some situations and grow back on their own in other situations


I'm intrigued. What kind of situations are you referring to specifically? It seems you're not limiting to combat necessarily, and as I said in my disclaimer up top, attrition out of combat is, I believe, an under-used element in RPGs. For example, I'd like to see a game with a cost of option of bashing open chests at the expanse of health. It gives the player meaningful choices and tangible input on their resource management.

#8 Tiblanc   Members   -  Reputation: 556

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Posted 09 July 2012 - 08:40 AM

An issue with attrition is the effects are not directly visible. You know 1 hour from now if your decisions were good and allowed you to reach the end of the dungeon. A related issue is random encounters become very easy because their goal is to slowly wear you down. It's very hard to balance because the number of encounters is variable so you never know how many encounters the player will face before reaching the end. The player end up using basic abilities to save up enough resources in case something bad happens. That usually makes all combats Fight+Heal because it's more efficient to preserve resources for burst damage for bosses.

A solution could be to restrict out of combat healing to a specific amount and allow ways to regenerate this based on dungeon length. Out of combat healing would be done by spending "divine interventions" or something similar. It's a complete restoration of resources, but limited to 3 uses. It's restored when resting at an inn or throughout the dungeon. What this allows over potions is the controlled usage limit. It makes it so you will not always enter the next fight with full strength, so random encounters can be a bit more dangerous without being lethal. If a dungeon is set to trigger 12 random encounters, that means 4 encounters per restore(assuming 1 before the boss). They can be designed to consume 25% of the player's resources. Without it, they must be designed to consume 5% of the player's resources to leave some for the boss. That makes them tougher in the player's eyes.

Another benefit is decisions have their consequence in a shorter time frame. You get feedback based on how many encounters you won before using a full restore. Using one after 2 encounters instead of 4 is direct feedback to the player that something is wrong. Because it's a full heal, anything that happened before that point is irrelevant from that point on. This means the player only has to figure out what happened during the last 2 to 4 encounters to fix his strategy. Also, since it's a full restore to every character, it encourages the player to use offensive abilities. The most efficient strategy is one that makes all character lose strength at the same pace. If your healer is out of MP and your nukers are full MP, you need to heal up. If you nuked the monsters instead, it would have saved on the healer's MP and allowed you to squeeze in another encounter. This allows diverse strategies to be used by the player without fear of being out of offensive power for the boss.

For longer dungeons, some mechanism can be added to give the player new restores. It could be a shrine that regenerates 1 use once, but refreshed if the player exits the dungeon.
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#9 Phil123   Members   -  Reputation: 606

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Posted 09 July 2012 - 10:26 AM

No disrespect intended, I fully understood your inclusion of this example and support it.


No offense taken ^^, I re-read my original post after what you posted and realized I wasn't particularly clear on what I was trying to get across.

Thanks for your input Phil123, much appreciated.


No problem, this is a pretty tough topic of discussion (but a very good topic regardless) because balancing proper attrition rates in RPGs seems like a designer's nightmare when you think about it.

I'm going to assume you're referring to the use of consumables "in-battle" rather than in-between fights correct? While this is a bit more fun, like I have previously stated, loosing too many mandatory turns to actions that are not strategically sound but only "necessary" IS boring as well.


Agreed.

The problem here is I think you're encouraging the player to heal, which, in and of itself, isn't necessarily fun. I think the key lies in having less healing, not more. A turn spent healing is a turn lost in battle, or a few seconds lost outside of battle. It is time not spent towards thinking about your strategy. Sure, occasional healing works, but there is a reason games such as Diablo 3 have moved away from their healing-frenzy loops. If anything, this mechanic encourages more healing, and as much as it can be a decent patch for the issue, I think it does encourage the problem rather than being a permanent solution.


Yeah, those are some very good points.

Using one after 2 encounters instead of 4 is direct feedback to the player that something is wrong.


How would you implement this such that the player doesn't get the impression he's simply too low of a level and needs to grind out more exp? (Not that a bit of grinding is necessarily the worst thing in the world, I'm just talking in a theoretical situation).

#10 Orymus3   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 6825

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Posted 09 July 2012 - 10:55 AM

A related issue is random encounters become very easy because their goal is to slowly wear you down.


What if the encounters are not random though? Either fixed, or visible and quantified?

The player end up using basic abilities to save up enough resources in case something bad happens.


That is, assuming he has the luxury of doing that. The player must be kept in check to figure the weakest attack he can use while spending as little as possible recovery items after the fight. If you just use fight, you might need too many potions, but if you use fire 3, you'll need too many ethers.

A solution could be to restrict out of combat healing to a specific amount and allow ways to regenerate this based on dungeon length. Out of combat healing would be done by spending "divine interventions" or something similar. It's a complete restoration of resources, but limited to 3 uses


This seems loosely based off D&D 4e's long rest system and the action point reward (mixed with healing surges)?
When exactly would that number reset to full (leaving dungeon? resting in a town?)

You get feedback based on how many encounters you won before using a full restor

Would it be unecessary to add additional rewards? (5 encounters in a row without a restore means you get 125% Experience reward or something like that).

Overall, I like your idea as I think it is refreching compared to the full restore "cabin" mechanic. I've always been opposed to disposable items you carry around giving you so much power, but an actual game mechanic with conditions and limitations sounds like fun. I'm just a bit on the fence as to how it feels so arbitrary, but you've probably designed that on the fly so ;)

Quote
The problem here is I think you're encouraging the player to heal, which, in and of itself, isn't necessarily fun. I think the key lies in having less healing, not more. A turn spent healing is a turn lost in battle, or a few seconds lost outside of battle. It is time not spent towards thinking about your strategy. Sure, occasional healing works, but there is a reason games such as Diablo 3 have moved away from their healing-frenzy loops. If anything, this mechanic encourages more healing, and as much as it can be a decent patch for the issue, I think it does encourage the problem rather than being a permanent solution.

Yeah, those are some very good points.


By analogy, in Formula-1 racing (and other racing too) it is a very strong strategic element to determine after how many laps you should stop at the pit stop, as it determines the exact amount of fuel you want onboard, which influences the car's weight, etc. This is a strategic element. If you were to include pit-stop stops every 2 or 3 laps, it would just become boring, and attrition-intensive. It wouldn't be a racing sport, but mostly the addition of who has the most efficient engineer team to fuel up ;)

Quote
Using one after 2 encounters instead of 4 is direct feedback to the player that something is wrong.

How would you implement this such that the player doesn't get the impression he's simply too low of a level and needs to grind out more exp? (Not that a bit of grinding is necessarily the worst thing in the world, I'm just talking in a theoretical situation).


Well noted. I see the trap there too. The idea is really to get the player to re-evaluate his strategy and not re-evaluate the difficulty curve in regard to his party's strengths.

#11 Tiblanc   Members   -  Reputation: 556

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Posted 09 July 2012 - 11:21 AM

This seems loosely based off D&D 4e's long rest system and the action point reward (mixed with healing surges)?
When exactly would that number reset to full (leaving dungeon? resting in a town?)


Now that you mention it, it is similar to the short rests of D&D 4e. Healing surges being replaced by restoration tokens and encounter powers being MP. It would regenerate when you go to the inn(extended rest). The difference between the 2 is you always come back at 100% strength. In 4e, you do not regain daily powers.

Would it be unecessary to add additional rewards? (5 encounters in a row without a restore means you get 125% Experience reward or something like that).


Additional rewards sounds nice. Really pushes the risk/reward further and might make random encounters interesting.

I'm just a bit on the fence as to how it feels so arbitrary, but you've probably designed that on the fly so ;)


More like on the way to the restroom from my desk ;) I agree it's completely arbitrary, but so are most mechanics. HP makes no sense, but it provides a simple way to measure the ability of a character to withstand damage and is a solid foundation for finer gameplay elements.
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#12 tim_shea   Members   -  Reputation: 461

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Posted 09 July 2012 - 11:30 AM

By analogy, in Formula-1 racing (and other racing too) it is a very strong strategic element to determine after how many laps you should stop at the pit stop, as it determines the exact amount of fuel you want onboard, which influences the car's weight, etc. This is a strategic element. If you were to include pit-stop stops every 2 or 3 laps, it would just become boring, and attrition-intensive. It wouldn't be a racing sport, but mostly the addition of who has the most efficient engineer team to fuel up ;)

This is an excellent point and serves as a great introduction to my opinion on this: attrition is fundamentally related to time. The pit stops are only carefully managed because they waste time, which is in racing and war, the ultimate resource. I think just about any attrition mechanic could work provided it is related in an interesting and fun way to time. The King's Bounty game mentioned above is one example, as are many rogue-like games. These games are generally turn-based, but also have strong incentives not to waste time. In King's Bounty, the total number of turns was limited, in many rogue-likes, consumables and equipment are so tightly rationed that the player has to strive for optimal play, and minimal attrition, or wind up hopelessly under powered.

Dead Rising made the attrition-time relationship explicit. The player could inevitably find almost unlimited provisions, but if he wasted too much time doing so, he would fall behind the clock. I know for me, this gave the game an exciting urgency.

Of course, there is a drawback (which I've experienced in both King's Bounty and Dead Rising :( ) to inflexibly limiting time, which is that a player may realize many hours into play that they have no chance of success, because they've wasted too much time. This is a serious downer, and very negative feedback for the player. There are many perma-death RPGs that overcome this by making dying-and-restarting a core mechanic, though, so it can be done.

In any case, I think a jRPG probably does not need to be quite so strict, but the standard approach (which I would say is roughly 'we'll discourage the player from wasting resources, by making them waste a bunch of time on a boring walk back to town, then even more time fighting their way back to where they left off') is not terribly fun, and could do with a replacement. One mechanic I think might be fun to experiment with would be purely aesthetic feedback: the more time a player wastes not destroying a ravaging monster, the more of his village will be left in ruins. Ultimately, there is no negative feedback other than seeing that all those cheerful but useless NPCs are now gone.

#13 sunandshadow   Moderators   -  Reputation: 4652

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Posted 09 July 2012 - 12:15 PM


they erode in some situations and grow back on their own in other situations


I'm intrigued. What kind of situations are you referring to specifically? It seems you're not limiting to combat necessarily, and as I said in my disclaimer up top, attrition out of combat is, I believe, an under-used element in RPGs. For example, I'd like to see a game with a cost of option of bashing open chests at the expanse of health. It gives the player meaningful choices and tangible input on their resource management.

Well, I've played a game where you constantly took small amounts of damage when you were walking on lava or out in an icy environment, then whenever you stood on good ground or paused to huddle for warmth or went into a cave you healed. It was sort of a maze challenge where some painful paths looked good but were just too long for you to survive walking from one end to the other. Not something I'd want to do for a whole game, but fun for one level out of 5 or 6. The most common arrangement is that you take damage in combat and heal or heal faster when not in combat. This works best with games where you can see the encounters and avoid them if you are too low on health.

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#14 RedBaron5   Members   -  Reputation: 573

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Posted 09 July 2012 - 12:34 PM

For the project I'm working on, I decided to limit the number of health potions the player can carry and make them rare and very expensive items. This forces players to try to beat enemies strategically and minimize damage taken. I want players to be mad at themselves if they have to use 3-4 potions during an encounter. I want them to be tempted to re-try the encounter to try to come out with more health potions left. (Similar to Dark Souls)

#15 Orymus3   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 6825

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Posted 09 July 2012 - 02:03 PM

his is an excellent point and serves as a great introduction to my opinion on this: attrition is fundamentally related to time. The pit stops are only carefully managed because they waste time, which is in racing and war, the ultimate resource.


I think the very challenge is to find a fun way to lose time. One is the actual combat system, but you can only put so much on this before the game looks like a "fight Fest" which I think the game needs others, and let's be honest, most jRPGs are weak at this and often add only menu-based interactions (crafting, etc).

purely aesthetic feedback


While I don't exactly like this specific example, I actually liked a moment in Chrono Cross where it was purely exploration. No fighting. It was actually fun, but you can only go so far before it gets repetitive.


Well, I've played a game where you constantly took small amounts of damage when you were walking on lava or out in an icy environment, then whenever you stood on good ground or paused to huddle for warmth or went into a cave you healed. It was sort of a maze challenge where some painful paths looked good but were just too long for you to survive walking from one end to the other. Not something I'd want to do for a whole game, but fun for one level out of 5 or 6. The most common arrangement is that you take damage in combat and heal or heal faster when not in combat. This works best with games where you can see the encounters and avoid them if you are too low on health.


I've devised a similar system to create an alternate losing condition not related to HPs actually. Whenever in hostile environment, a meter of your internal body temperature was shown and would increase or decrease based on the environment. There were variations to what was cold, colder, hot, hotter, or temperature (Allowing you to neutralize your temp). It sounded ok, but like you said, I can't see a full game of just that, not even 25% of it.

#16 n00b0dy   Members   -  Reputation: 103

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Posted 11 July 2012 - 07:54 AM

Hp is a short term resource that when lost you get an "instant gameover".

Attitition can also come from other long term "resources" that when lost you get a "delayed gameover".
A "Delayed Gameover" is one that If the player "messes up", they will be able to progress further but they will eventually die and will have to restart the game.

1) The player's bodyparts could take damage (not restorable by heals), potentially wounding them and risking to lose them, at which case you may end up with a character unable to equp items, and they would die from extreme bleeding.

2) Status effects that instantly kill you when their resource bar ends. e.g
a) deadly poison kills you at 10 tokens.
b) petrify kills you after 4 seconds of direct medusa look.

3) permanent stat loss, level downs, the player will be encouraged to dodge spider attacks that lower stats because else they will end with 0 str and 1 hp and instantly die.

4) item durability loss
Player Solution: a) keep multiple item sets. b) avoid getting hit.

You can convert the "Restart from new game" clause to :
"Restart dungeon from start" e.g you have to go back to town to reset your stats, durability, wounds, or to
"Restart from last checkpoint" : Thus the player has to conserve resources between 2 checkpoint.

In wow case, the checkpoints are [battle start, battle end] thus there is no attritition to that game, everyone starts with full hp/mana.
Minions in that game serve no purpose, only to delay you from getting to bosses (filler).

In permadeath, the checkpoint are [game start, game end], it leads to making the game feared (if you die its permanent), more difficult, however if you die you have repeat everything from start. Playing the first stage 400 times, when you have only played the last stage only once sucks.

Having a checkpoint system will allow the players to go back to the [checkpoint route] they messed up, to fix their mistakes. E.g finish the route with more resources thus allowing them to beat the next boss.

Edited by n00b0dy, 11 July 2012 - 08:03 AM.


#17 Orymus3   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 6825

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Posted 11 July 2012 - 08:13 AM

2) Status effects that instantly kill you when their resource bar ends. e.g
a) deadly poison kills you at 10 tokens.
b) petrify kills you after 4 seconds of direct medusa look.


That would be attrition at the scale of a single combat. Once the battle is over, the player has lost nothing if they've overcome this, so I'd say this isn't attrition.


Having a checkpoint system will allow the players to go back to the [checkpoint route] they messed up, to fix their mistakes. E.g finish the route with more resources thus allowing them to beat the next boss.


I like this, but I'm having troubles applying the idea of checkpoint to a narrative jrpg. When would these checkpoints be? Specific chapters of the story?
What about backtracking?

A big flaw of Diablo 3 is the checkpoint system. While it allows for quick recovery, if you're where you shouldn't be and die, you start very far from there. Should all dungeon "floors" or "areas" save as checkpoints? That way, every time you enter a dungeon, the game saves a checkpoint, and saves more as you go if necessary?

#18 n00b0dy   Members   -  Reputation: 103

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Posted 11 July 2012 - 09:05 AM

That would be attrition at the scale of a single combat. Once the battle is over, the player has lost nothing if they've overcome this, so I'd say this isn't attrition.

No you can make status effects last permanently, at checkpoints they recover from them, if the player gets unlucky to get hit by 10 deadly poisons between [c, c+1] he instantly dies and restarts from last checkpoint.

if you're where you shouldn't be and die, you start very far from there

Agree lets make a more detailed discussion.

1) What approach is better
A) "Balance trash minions based attritition for the route between 2 checkpoints [c, c+1]" or
B) "Balance trash minions based on that they will require 100% of your hp pool to defeat in 1 encounter" ? Afterwords you recover to full hp/mana.

Approach A: makes mobs too easy psychologically, possibly boring as you will only get to critical death state after 4 fights, with no imediate results to signify danger, that you failed as a player to adapt to them.

Approach B: enemies deal 90% of your hp attacks, almost 1shotting you. The healers have to watch the health pools, and get paniced, do i use my slow casting time healing spell, risking death? in approach A, healers spammed only 1 button (their slow heals). Now they have to decide.

Both approaches can lead to the same difficulty, however A is harder because you dont see the result, thus you aren't forced to play at your peek performance. At same arbitary point you "run out juice", which means that you instantly die totally unprepared and unable to do anything to fix it except restarting the game from last checkpoint.

Wow Priests: cannot exist in approach A as their playstyle gets tedius (1button)

Dnd3.5 Mages: cannot exist in approach B as mages are all about resource concervation, the mages deal 1000% more dmg than warriors, but they could only cast 1-4 spells in the whole dungeon. Thus a mage has difficult trash fights, where a warrior has a difficult boss fight. The mage can 1shot the final boss of the game in 1button but he will likely die to trash mobs.


Why did we chose attritution ?
1) Games were too easy without attritution, players would to start fight with full hp, thus
defeating the purpose of random trash encounters.

Well not according to wow psychologists.

Imagine a game that you only fight bosses one after another, challenging your party, is this fun ?
NO !!!

trash encounters make the game have a "relax" period that we dont have to worry about Fight Effectiviness. They are there to relax us from the big boss that we will meet in next battle and we have give all our resources in order to progress. But putting too match effort into attrition of those fights we are removing the "free period" of farming without caring about fight effectiviness, thus defeating the purpose of trash fights.

Questions to hear answers:

1) What approach is better
A) "Balance trash minions based attritition for the route between 2 checkpoints [c, c+1]" or
B) "Balance trash minions based on that they will require 100% of your hp pool to defeat in 1 encounter" ? Afterwords you recover to full hp/mana.

2) Is it fun for trash encounters to exist if they wont challenge your party ?

3) How much time should trash encounters consume for the players to relax, and how much for challenging encounters.
How do i mix them up. Following wow formula i.e Easy fights 5 min; Boss fight 5 min ; Easy Fights 5 min; Boss fight 5 min ;

Edited by n00b0dy, 11 July 2012 - 09:41 AM.


#19 tim_shea   Members   -  Reputation: 461

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Posted 11 July 2012 - 10:48 AM

n00b0dy, your approaches are not a dichotomy. In fact probably all elements of game design (as all elements of life) are a continuum. For the sake of argument, let's say approaches A and B are both bad as you claim, well what about all of the possibilities in between? That is, after all, why we call it game balancing, because its a matter of finding the most entertaining balance between unpleasant extremes.

Also, WoW is not particularly relevant to balancing a turn based retro rpg. I know we've already introduced plenty of outside examples to support the discussion, but there are limits to how far you can take an example. It might be useful to look at why the designers made the pacing decisions they did, but it would probably be fruitless to try and port them into this model.

However, I actually think your example of a petrify (or potentially death spell, or other, really negative things) effect which would increment over time, forcing the player to avoid engaging the Medusa until he was ready to fully commit, that might be fun. It's maybe not a good basis for the basic attrition system in a game, but in a dungeon or two I think it has a lot of promise.

#20 RedBaron5   Members   -  Reputation: 573

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Posted 11 July 2012 - 11:14 AM

Imagine a game that you only fight bosses one after another, challenging your party, is this fun ?
NO !!!


Not sure if I agree with this. If the purpose of easy fights is just to let the player relax why have them at all? I think a game should strive to make every encounter challenging. If an encounter doesn't challenge the player in any way, its worthless.

I think the level of challenge should change but all encounters should have some challenge. You should be able to die during every fight. If there is no fear of dying, there is no enjoyment.




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