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Designing "leveling up" in competitive multi-player games.


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#1 Legendre   Members   -  Reputation: 966

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Posted 28 December 2013 - 05:41 PM

In a multiplayer free for all death match situation, what is a good "leveling up" system? The obvious problem is that high level players can dominate the game, while level players face a long grind before they can actually compete with the old-timers.

 

The "obvious" solution is to make leveling only work in the match and not carry over to the next match. Also, one can make it similar to First Person Shooters: players go around the map collecting power ups, armor and weapons. But when they die, they go back to square one and respawn with nothing.

 

Unfortunately, I don't really know much about this topic beyond these few points. I will be so grateful if anyone has any good input/insight about this or has links to good articles talking about the design of these systems.



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#2 VengeanceDemon   Members   -  Reputation: 153

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Posted 28 December 2013 - 10:51 PM

Subspace did it right.  Fast paced 2D space shooter, you would level up fairly quickly on the remains of blown up people.  Even a no level ship could scavenge stray explosions and take advantage of the chaos on screen to hit max pretty quickly.  Plus the upgrades were random, which made things interesting.  As long as the leveling process isn't too drawn out and doesn't keep you out of the competition.

 

Although truth be told, servers with no leveling are always the most popular.

http://www.subspace.net/



#3 powerneg   Members   -  Reputation: 1463

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Posted 29 December 2013 - 06:15 PM

What purpose does leveling have in your game ?



#4 Dan Violet Sagmiller   Members   -  Reputation: 896

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Posted 30 December 2013 - 04:23 PM

While I can't say I can recommend the "best" Level Up system for a Multiplayer Free for all, I can offer this idea:

 

Something like king of the hill.  Multiple terraces, each terrace can only be accessed at certain levels.  I.e. terrace 1 can be accessed by anyone.  Every person you kill is worth % exp to the next level.  higher level people are naturally worth more points.  

 

Terrace 2 can only be accessed by people level 2 or above.  Which means if you die and restart, you can get back to level 2 quickly, but if you run through the open of Terrace 1, you leave yourself exposed to lower level players hoping to level up faster on your corpse.

 

Each terrace would provide new weapons or abilities, but you don't get them until you reach that level.  (I.e. if you die, you come back with level X exp, but you can't use the bonuses until you are in the levels.)

 

You can shoot at people in other terraces.  Lower terraces make you very little points, so it mostly waists ammunition.  Higher level terraces are worth a lot more for taking people out.  

 

Each terrace may have look out towers that make it easier to take out high level individuals, but they are easier to target from lower terraces and even your own.

 

It would really suck with just a few players, so you would really need NPC challenges as well.  AI's that spawn out of sight of all other players, and then run to take tactical positions.  Worth no more than someone at that level.  

 

As the game would be terraced, I like the idea of exploding debris, like trucks and dumpsters that keep getting launched into lower levels from explosions higher up.  And of course objects that keep respawning when players aren't looking, 

 

Terrace 1 might only have a hand gun, with minimal armor.  (3 shots dead)

Terrace 2 might offer short burt machine guns.

3 grenades

4 rockets.

etc....


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#5 Servant of the Lord   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 19520

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Posted 30 December 2013 - 06:35 PM

The Call of Duty: Modern Warfare series did a good job of balancing most of their weapons, so most people thought that their preferred weapon loadout was the best.

If they can convince millions of people that their favorite weapon is the best, with them all choosing different weapons, they did something right. I strongly suggest playing one of them if you haven't before - they did alot right when it comes to persistent player level-ups without unbalancing things. Not perfectly balanced, but very very close, while still feeling meaningful.

(I'm talking about Modern Warfare 1,2 & 3. The Black Ops series is made by a different developer and doesn't quite have the same level of polish, IMO)

 

Despite my above praise for the series, I'm actually not a heavy FPS player, and only have dabbled at Modern Warfare here and there - but I was really impressed with the single player and the multiplayer portions of Modern Warfare. Kudos for the Infinity Ward developers - they did an amazing job, and this from someone who barely plays the genre (but I have experienced enough of the genre in other games to know quality when I see it).

 

"Leveling up" should unlock new tools for overcoming challenges, without making any existing challenges easier.

 

The new tools really do need to be different. Not the same thing with a different visual appearance.

A sniper rifle and a shotgun are two different tools with different uses in different situations.

 

What if, for each level up, you are presented with five different pieces of equipment, and you get to choose two of them to unlock and add to your possible choices.

When you begin a match, you choose which three pieces of equipment of your unlocked equipment you want to actually bring into battle.

 

You can replace the word "equipment" with "skills", "items", "abilities", "magic", or whatever - the concept is still the same.

 

The important thing is that new tools you unlock don't make old tools obsolete. Getting a sniper rifle doesn't make a shotgun obsolete, or vise-versa.

 

What if one piece of equipment is boots that let you double-jump? It doesn't make you more powerful than other players, but it does make you more maneuverable.

Someone else, for their boots, is wearing one that lets them constantly run slightly faster (25% faster, let's say), and another person is wearing boots that let them run alot faster (100% faster) but only for 5 seconds at a time (requiring them to use it cleverly, and to make them _work_ to have it be a real advantage).

 

The best thing you can do is to introduce meaningful choices (choices that actually affect the gameplay) to the game, without overwhelming the players with too many options presented at once.

The worst thing you can do is add additional items to the game that become the obvious choice, because they are unbalanced. This removes choices from players.

 

Other areas where there might be a couple different choices:

If you have explosives in your game, you could have: Timed explosives (you throw them and they detonate after a set time - i.e. grenades), proximity-mines/claymores that are triggered when players walk near but make a 'click' noise when triggered and have a two second delay, or remote mines that players manually detonate but that detonate instantly when the player triggers it.

Other familiar explosives are smoke grenades and flashbangs. What about poisonous gas grenades? Or what about noise grenades that sound like someone firing an automatic weapon, and show up on the radar as a player? What about hallucinogenic gas grenades that make a knee-high colored gas that spreads from room to room and flows over ledges and distorts the screen of people that are inside it?


Edited by Servant of the Lord, 30 December 2013 - 06:41 PM.

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#6 Adam Moore   Members   -  Reputation: 326

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Posted 01 January 2014 - 04:50 PM

What purpose does leveling have in your game ?

 

I think this is the most important question to answer before even considering a level system for a free-for-all deathmatch game. What does this system do to make the game experience better?

 

Do you want these benefits to be persistent, or should everyone start on equal footing at the start of each match?

 

If newbies lack both the skill and experience level to compete with veterans...what's going to stop them from giving up and playing something else?


Edited by Adam Moore, 01 January 2014 - 04:52 PM.


#7 Legendre   Members   -  Reputation: 966

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Posted 04 January 2014 - 02:43 PM

 

What purpose does leveling have in your game ?

 

I think this is the most important question to answer before even considering a level system for a free-for-all deathmatch game. What does this system do to make the game experience better?

 

Do you want these benefits to be persistent, or should everyone start on equal footing at the start of each match?

 

If newbies lack both the skill and experience level to compete with veterans...what's going to stop them from giving up and playing something else?

 

 

Good question. Why do I want to have leveling in my game? Note: I am using a broad definition of leveling up, which includes getting items (weapons, armor, usable items) during the match or equipping them before a match.

 

1) I want an RPG "feel" in a match, without the grind or the imbalance (high level dominating lower levels).

 

Within a match, I want my players to be able to go around picking up weapons, armor and usable items. Essentially "leveling up" by collecting them and using them to overcome other players. This gives variety and I imagine some players will have stories of how they managed to get a set of X or Y before being killed.

 

2) I want my players to have a sense of progress outside of a match. (again without grind and imbalance)

 

I want my players to be able to look at all the matches they have played and see the abilities, items, classes etc they have unlocked through playing these matches. Also, it allows me to "slow roll" my content, enticing the players to play to unlock new content and getting excited about future content.

 

3) I want to monetize.

 

The project, currently under developing, is a small free experimental game hosted on a server that I am paying for. But I want to have the option to ask for some donations to keep the server running or expand in the future. Being able to sell special items will help me do that.



#8 Legendre   Members   -  Reputation: 966

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Posted 04 January 2014 - 02:54 PM

While I can't say I can recommend the "best" Level Up system for a Multiplayer Free for all, I can offer this idea:

 

Something like king of the hill.  Multiple terraces, each terrace can only be accessed at certain levels.  I.e. terrace 1 can be accessed by anyone.  Every person you kill is worth % exp to the next level.  higher level people are naturally worth more points.  

 

Wow. Ever thought of developing this into an actual game? Sounds really interesting.

 

So, what you're essentially recommending is to stick to the traditional level up system where higher levels are more powerful than lower levels, but segregating them. Then, allow some ways for them to interact, and some incentives to control that interaction.



#9 Tutorial Doctor   Members   -  Reputation: 1622

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Posted 04 January 2014 - 02:57 PM

You want to do a bit of research on game mechanics and mechanism design. Because leveling up is part of game mechanics. Understanding game mechanics will help you understand how to create a balance in the game. 

 

There is something called "Risk and Reward" in games. If a person wants to get one thing, it has to require giving up something else in order to get it. So, if one player has great speed, they have to give up a bit of strength. The opposite has to be true also, if a player has great strength they can't have great speed. This is how they do it in fighting games. There are other types of mechanics that can balance a game also. 

 

They do the same thing with weapons upgrades. One gun might have a high rate of fire, but low damage. etc.


Edited by Tutorial Doctor, 04 January 2014 - 02:59 PM.

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#10 Legendre   Members   -  Reputation: 966

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Posted 04 January 2014 - 04:10 PM

The Call of Duty: Modern Warfare series did a good job of balancing most of their weapons, so most people thought that their preferred weapon loadout was the best.

If they can convince millions of people that their favorite weapon is the best, with them all choosing different weapons, they did something right.

 

"Leveling up" should unlock new tools for overcoming challenges, without making any existing challenges easier.

 

This is a brilliant post. +1

 

Yep, leveling up should unlock new tools, not just increasing stats or unlocking more powerful weapons. I am surprised more games don't do it this way but instead just make higher level characters more powerful. I guess it make sense if they are targeting casual or young players: they are more likely to think dying to a "low level" is "stupid".

 

E.g. Kid: "I just unlock the ultra cool Death Knight class and I just died to a basic Warrior class! Lame!!!!". But given that I am make a small indie game as a hobby for free, I get to experiment. :D



#11 powerneg   Members   -  Reputation: 1463

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Posted 05 January 2014 - 04:09 PM


Within a match, I want my players to be able to go around picking up weapons, armor and usable items. Essentially "leveling up" by collecting them and using them to overcome other players. This gives variety and I imagine some players will have stories of how they managed to get a set of X or Y before being killed.

If they lose their advantages upon dying(like in most multiplayer-FPS) most of us wouldn't call it "leveling up"

(It's better this way though)

 


2) I want my players to have a sense of progress outside of a match. (again without grind and imbalance)

I want my players to be able to look at all the matches they have played and see the abilities, items, classes etc they have unlocked through playing these matches. Also, it allows me to "slow roll" my content, enticing the players to play to unlock new content and getting excited about future content.

 

If i may recommend, make a whole bunch of skills, let's say 50, let players unlock 5(10?) when they start the game,

when they play a match they 're allowed to pick 5(10?) skills they 've unlocked,

let them unlock more skills as they "level up" yet they still get to pick 5 (unlocked) skills when a match starts.

The only skills that would have some kind of prerequisite(aka being level 30 before unlocking it) should be skills that you do not want to confuse newbies with.

(This is a bit stolen from the LoL's skill-tree, they got two ways of leveling up that work approximately like this, maybe look at them)

 


3) I want to monetize.



The project, currently under developing, is a small free experimental game hosted on a server that I am paying for. But I want to have the option to ask for some donations to keep the server running or expand in the future. Being able to sell special items will help me do that.

 

Skins for characters, items, and whatever you can throw a skin on ;)



#12 Adam Moore   Members   -  Reputation: 326

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Posted 08 January 2014 - 01:10 PM

 

 

What purpose does leveling have in your game ?

 

I think this is the most important question to answer before even considering a level system for a free-for-all deathmatch game. What does this system do to make the game experience better?

 

Do you want these benefits to be persistent, or should everyone start on equal footing at the start of each match?

 

If newbies lack both the skill and experience level to compete with veterans...what's going to stop them from giving up and playing something else?

 

 

...

 

3) I want to monetize.

 

The project, currently under developing, is a small free experimental game hosted on a server that I am paying for. But I want to have the option to ask for some donations to keep the server running or expand in the future. Being able to sell special items will help me do that.

 

 

A word of caution on monetization - paying real-world money isn't fun or enjoyable for players.

 

Monetizing your game is a good idea (you deserve to get paid for the work you've done), but be cautious when adding new features, systems, or mechanics to your game. If one of the reasons you want to add something to the game is to get the player to pay you money, then it might not be a good idea because that goal (get players to pay more money) conflicts with the player's goal (maximized return on investment - the most enjoyment for the least cost).

 

Keep in mind that before you even start asking your customers for money, you need to have a product or service that customers want to pay money for. How many players does the game have and how many donations have you received? These are indicators of how much people like the game as it is, and these are the people you should reach out to for feedback to understand what your players like and dislike about your game. If either or both of these numbers are low, then you should focus on attracting more players and making the game more enjoyable before you consider adding more ways to make money. This is why so many video game Kickstarters fail to make their goals - they're asking for money before finding out what people want and they end up finding out the hard way that people don't want what they're pitching and they end up with a handful of donations from friends and family.

 

Make sure that the players want what you think they want before you spend time developing this system. You don't want to spend months developing a system that the players end up despising. There may be something else you can do that takes less time to develop and results in more enjoyment for your players.


Edited by Adam Moore, 08 January 2014 - 01:11 PM.


#13 Adam Moore   Members   -  Reputation: 326

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Posted 08 January 2014 - 10:20 PM

I've been working on this problem in the back of my mind at work today, and I have a suggestion if you intend to implement a level system for a skill based game.

 

What you're looking for might not be a "leveling up" system. You might be better off with a rating system (similar to the ones used in chess). A player's rating would increase or decrease based on their performance in game, giving them an idea of their relative strength compared to other players.

 

With a large player base, you could use calculated ratings to pit players against other players at similar skill levels.

 

The Glicko Rating System



#14 samoth   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 4771

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Posted 09 January 2014 - 07:32 AM

Why not award xp only for kills on players of at least equal level, and in fact award negative xp for killing players with lower levels? Not necessarily at a strict 1:1 ratio, but just enough so wasting ammunition on a lowbie plus losing a little xp makes it unattractive compared to killing someone of equal or higher level.

 

If D is the difference between your and your opponent's level, you migth for example gain 2*D + 5 xp if D >= 0 and lose 0.25*D xp if D < 0. That way you can still kill lower level people if nobody else is around (so you're not totally bored) but it will not help you advancing (even though you use ammo).

On the contrary, if you keep killing players that are way too low (more than 4 levels lower in this example), you will very slowly degrade in your skill. The others still get a chance to level up on you, however.

 

Add to that a "pack" mechanic which allows two or more weaker opponents to more easily attack a stronger one, if you like. For example, add something around a 1-2% chance of hitting if another player attacked a target within the last second. That way, one person would count as a kind of "barrage fire" for the respective other if both attack the same enemy. Don't overdo it of course, or you'll have zerging all over the place (so maybe limit the bonus to something like +10% max).



#15 Dan Violet Sagmiller   Members   -  Reputation: 896

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Posted 17 January 2014 - 12:02 PM

 

While I can't say I can recommend the "best" Level Up system for a Multiplayer Free for all, I can offer this idea:

 

Something like king of the hill.  Multiple terraces, each terrace can only be accessed at certain levels.  I.e. terrace 1 can be accessed by anyone.  Every person you kill is worth % exp to the next level.  higher level people are naturally worth more points.  

 

Wow. Ever thought of developing this into an actual game? Sounds really interesting.

 

So, what you're essentially recommending is to stick to the traditional level up system where higher levels are more powerful than lower levels, but segregating them. Then, allow some ways for them to interact, and some incentives to control that interaction.

 

 

No, I just wanted to post the idea and hope someone else does so I can play it.  Ideas are typically easy, its the long mundane battle of getting every bit (pun intended) in place, that detracts my interest from producing it.


Moltar - "Do you even know how to use that?"

Space Ghost - “Moltar, I have a giant brain that is able to reduce any complex machine into a simple yes or no answer."

Dan - "Best Description of AI ever."

My Game(s), Warp Wars is in early development and can be found here: http://blog.WarpWars.Net.


#16 wodinoneeye   Members   -  Reputation: 818

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Posted 17 January 2014 - 03:17 PM

The increase increment in ability should be fairly small (something like 20% (?) for one special purpose weapon and alot less for one generally used or applying to many activities)  and any additional increments should be decreasing when addative.  

 

You dont want someone to so-far outclass their opponents just because they were lucky about staying alive (with the 'loose it all when killed' (with scenario only improvement) and then getting too much advantage that in a head to head they are likely to keep winning.    Ditto for permanent advancement if not even less artificial advantage - a player really should be able to almost as well with any weapon/level given them and the 'advancement' mostly window dressing to feed the ego oftthose who care about such things (getting new weapon types or weird abilities - ok- as long as the new advantages are still minor.


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#17 Legendre   Members   -  Reputation: 966

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Posted 18 January 2014 - 12:20 PM

I've been working on this problem in the back of my mind at work today, and I have a suggestion if you intend to implement a level system for a skill based game.

 

What you're looking for might not be a "leveling up" system. You might be better off with a rating system (similar to the ones used in chess). A player's rating would increase or decrease based on their performance in game, giving them an idea of their relative strength compared to other players.

 

With a large player base, you could use calculated ratings to pit players against other players at similar skill levels.

 

The Glicko Rating System

 

This is a brilliant idea actually and fixes a potential problem: bad players getting to high level (through grind or purchasing accounts) and getting stuck with "pros" in games.

 

On the other hand, the majority of the players will get stuck and never progress beyond a low/mid level. Which....might be a good thing actually, since we do want to separate the pros from the regular players for the benefit of both groups.



#18 Legendre   Members   -  Reputation: 966

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Posted 18 January 2014 - 12:22 PM

 

A word of caution on monetization - paying real-world money isn't fun or enjoyable for players.

 

Monetizing your game is a good idea (you deserve to get paid for the work you've done), but be cautious when adding new features, systems, or mechanics to your game. If one of the reasons you want to add something to the game is to get the player to pay you money, then it might not be a good idea because that goal (get players to pay more money) conflicts with the player's goal (maximized return on investment - the most enjoyment for the least cost).

 

Keep in mind that before you even start asking your customers for money, you need to have a product or service that customers want to pay money for. How many players does the game have and how many donations have you received? These are indicators of how much people like the game as it is, and these are the people you should reach out to for feedback to understand what your players like and dislike about your game. If either or both of these numbers are low, then you should focus on attracting more players and making the game more enjoyable before you consider adding more ways to make money. This is why so many video game Kickstarters fail to make their goals - they're asking for money before finding out what people want and they end up finding out the hard way that people don't want what they're pitching and they end up with a handful of donations from friends and family.

 

Make sure that the players want what you think they want before you spend time developing this system. You don't want to spend months developing a system that the players end up despising. There may be something else you can do that takes less time to develop and results in more enjoyment for your players.

 

 

Great advice. There are too many "skinner boxes" out there. I have a friend who joined the casual/social game industry and the first things they were taught were to design "frustration points" that pushes players to pay up....instead of making the game fun.



#19 Legendre   Members   -  Reputation: 966

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Posted 18 January 2014 - 12:26 PM

No, I just wanted to post the idea and hope someone else does so I can play it.  Ideas are typically easy, its the long mundane battle of getting every bit (pun intended) in place, that detracts my interest from producing it.

 

 

Ideas can be tough to develop into a practical plan sometimes. E.g. I was trying to design a modified version of Magic: the Gathering (a collectible card game) once and it took me literally more than a year of major changes and play testing before I could get my core ideas to work practically.

 

That being said, I know what you mean. I have like 3-4 fully formed plans in the pipeline. It is far easier to develop them than actually doing the programming and arranging for the art to be done. I could easily day dream about the plans while commuting to work or in the shower for example. But programming and art takes serious effort (and money)!






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