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Progression through leveling, skills or items?


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#1 spacewarp   Members   -  Reputation: 106

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Posted 13 July 2012 - 06:04 PM

Hello everyone!

I'm working on a design for an RPG game, and I'm having some doubts about the skill and level system. I'm going for a more casual, explorative gaming experience and so thought about lowering the game complexity by simplifying character progression. But I'm having trouble deciding between the following:
  • Progression through leveling, no complex skill progression, leveling increases base stats.
  • Progression through skills, no leveling or base stat changes, skills progress through usage.
  • Progression through items, more focus on stat-changing items, items confer skills, no leveling.
However, I'm uncertain what the effects on gameplay might be in the end. So, my question is this:
What would be the effects of choosing one of the above alternatives over the others? (Particularly with regards to the style and feel of the gameplay)

My take on it is that the first sacrifices more frequent rewards and customization in favor of a simpler gameplay; the second sacrifices explicit customization and player control in favor of more frequent rewards and a somewhat simpler gameplay; while the third sacrifices inventory/item simplicity and a player metric in favor of player control, customization and progression simplicity.

Addendum: I'm not really limiting myself to the above three, they are just the ones I liked most and am primarily interested in.

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#2 sunandshadow   Moderators   -  Reputation: 5059

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Posted 13 July 2012 - 06:19 PM

What I would personally eliminate is character stats. Make every character at level X have the same stats, which are not visible to the player, and make every piece of gear of level Y have the same stats, so that it's beneficial to get higher level gear but only the level number matters. Don't attach skills to items, unless you are talking about zelda-style reusable tools, rather than the RPG approach I've seen of doing things like any player wearing the ice hat can cast the ice spell, but not the fire spell, which requires the fire hat instead. IMHO that latter approach adds complexity, and it's particularly pointless and annoying complexity.

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#3 Orymus3   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 10631

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Posted 13 July 2012 - 07:12 PM

Progression through items, more focus on stat-changing items, items confer skills, no leveling.


Zelda a Link to the Past worked with that and heart containers (which are items too).
I guess it made a fine game ;)

#4 Mratthew   Members   -  Reputation: 1581

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Posted 13 July 2012 - 08:37 PM

Progression through skills, no leveling or base stat changes, skills progress through usage.


I've played Zelda, give me something new to love!

Why not remove character leveling and replace it with item specific leveling, telling the story of items the way Tolkien did. Many fantasy stories define the main character by the item/weapon they use. This could even go as far as following an item's story unlocking skills with new characters using the item.

#5 spacewarp   Members   -  Reputation: 106

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Posted 14 July 2012 - 01:03 AM

What I would personally eliminate is character stats. Make every character at level X have the same stats, which are not visible to the player, and make every piece of gear of level Y have the same stats, so that it's beneficial to get higher level gear but only the level number matters.


This idea does seem interesting. I'm suppose that hiding the stats from the player will still cause the player to prefer specific gear of a certain level on account of placebo :)

Don't attach skills to items, unless you are talking about zelda-style reusable tools, rather than the RPG approach I've seen of doing things like any player wearing the ice hat can cast the ice spell, but not the fire spell, which requires the fire hat instead. IMHO that latter approach adds complexity, and it's particularly pointless and annoying complexity.


I did mean skills in the way of tools, yes. E.g. bow=you can shoot arrows; better bow=you can shoot more arrows (or bigger ones, or something). The spell/magic system I'm keeping more like Magica; mostly devoid of limitations and progression, though requiring some competence from the player.

Why not remove character leveling and replace it with item specific leveling, telling the story of items the way Tolkien did. Many fantasy stories define the main character by the item/weapon they use. This could even go as far as following an item's story unlocking skills with new characters using the item.


While I like this idea, it sadly does not fit into the rest of the game design. At least not without adding complexity that I'm trying to avoid.

#6 mekk_pilot   Members   -  Reputation: 142

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Posted 14 July 2012 - 08:06 AM

If you're going to have in-game progression, which I'm not convinced is necessary (I think the progression should be in the player's head, having him better figure out how to manipulate your game world as the game goes on), I think skill-based is the way to do it. Item-based and Stat-based might as well be the same thing, if you're just increasing numbers and not opening up new skills. Giving players new skills as they advance through the game will change the gameplay every time a new skill is added (as long as they are well designed and actually make a difference in the game world). This is much more fun than "Yay, I gained a level! I have 8 more HP now!"

Edit: Saw you say that items will add skills. In Link to the Past, this was handled really, really well. That would also be an option. I guess my point is the power players are acheiving should allow them to influence the game world in new ways, not just "I can beat these enemies who once were slightly numerically superior to me."

Edited by mekk_pilot, 14 July 2012 - 08:10 AM.


#7 Ashaman73   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 7992

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Posted 16 July 2012 - 05:33 AM

# Progression through leveling, no complex skill progression, leveling increases base stats.

Level is a great way to indicate the power of the character and his opponents and this not only for the player. The game designer has a very powerful tool to keep balancing on a sane level.

# Progression through skills, no leveling or base stat changes, skills progress through usage.

From a RPG point of view, this is very dangerous. RPGs are more about developing a character, whereas a skill set bears a major danger of pushing the whole game off balance. Either you need a certain skill to progress (=> where is the choice ? ) or your choice of skills is not really important. Even skill based RPGs like oblivion/skyrim keep the character level (derived from skills) to handle progress (more challenging opponents). Games like bioshock have skills, which you need to solve certain riddles or at least which would support you in certain parts of the game. But they are more like weapons than skills which develop your character.

# Progression through items, more focus on stat-changing items, items confer skills, no leveling.

This is similar to the skills system. You take the choice from the player and you control the game flow by placing items in a certain order. This is the tradional FPS approach, but as you can guess, there's little RPG left over due to lacking character development which can be controlled by the player.

Instead of limiting your game to only one element, you should consider of using all three, level,gear,skills, because this are one of the major elements of RPGs. The trick to keep it casual is to keep each element simple.

Level: only level which influenes certain (hidden) attributes
Skills: few skills, no trees to give the player some tools to customize/develope his character
Items: items are just simple equipment, no attribute boni or skills.

Edited by Ashaman73, 16 July 2012 - 05:35 AM.


#8 samoth   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 5034

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Posted 16 July 2012 - 07:00 AM

I think skills are, or at least can be, valuable.

The fact that as a level 20 warrior I've been presumably swinging a longsword for 5 years does not imply I can swing a blade a katana equally well. It doesn't mean I have ever fired a bow either. Buliwyf may be able to kill the Wendol Mother with his huge sword. However, he concludes his adventure dead, poisonded from a small scratch. Of course he would... why does being a bad-ass Nordman imply immunity to poison.

Being a level 25 starship trooper means I can handle a plasma rifle, and I've learned to seek cover when 6-legged aliens spit goo at my squad. However, why should I be any better at opening this level 15 security lock? Dang, the hyperdrive is broken. Good job I'm a level 25 guy. Shame they didn't teach me that in trooper school.

Being level 20 Police Inspector does not mean that I'm resistant to Dr. Fu Manchu's level 15 hypnotic power. Though the level 15 stage illusionist in Lola's Palace should probably have a fair chance, seeing how he works with mind tricks all day.

Being a level 30 Paladin who transforms to a wolf every night doesn't mean Philippe the Mouse, a starving level 5 thief cannot steal my stuff when I'm not looking. Hey, don't look at me, I don't do thief stuff.

Edited by samoth, 16 July 2012 - 07:00 AM.


#9 Waterlimon   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 2639

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Posted 16 July 2012 - 08:55 AM

I think item based would be the simplest because youre going to have items anyway.

Items would define skills, and skills should define level.

The effect of items on skills should be easy to see (hover mouse on item, see stat bars change height)

To make it simpler the items should increase skills in similiar ways with just a bit of bias towards some certain skill.

o3o





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