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kingy

Character progression in RPGs

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How often should characters go up levels in an RPG? Is it better for it to be easy, or harder? How much customisation should be possible - none at all, or a complete points based system that the player spends as they like?

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it depends on the game, and who is making it, and who they expect to play it. some people like fast easy leveling, others want to struggle for a level but then get a sweet-ass benefit when they do... a lot of people would say to leave out levels altogether.
the same goes for what happens at levels; some people like to customize as much as they can, others want to just get their stats and play some more.
pick whichever one fits best into the game you are envisioning...

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Here are two really wide examples, both from the same series.

Dragon Warrior I, for the NES. The character (one, not a party) went up levels about once every fifty or so fights, if you played careful.

Dragon Quest V, for the Super Famicom. The party all leveled up about once every five fights, and the game remained challenging because of a better difficulty curve.

The second one''s better. :D

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in the end it doesn´t affect gameplay much at all - it´s more a question of style (small, frequent rewards or infrequent big rewards). the balancing usually eats up all the levelling - as the player char advances the environment gets tougher with him.

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Its really a matter of taste. Frequent levels could be good, but your bonuses would have to be small. Infrequent levels are the opposite, never happening, but when they do you get a huge bonus out of it. What it then boils down to is a matter of difficulty and... look I suppose. Covering the look aspect first, what you have to ask is how you want the numbers to look. Does the player work his way from 8 to 43 strength points throughout the course of the game, or do we have triple or quadrouple digits? Does the singular "Level" number follow the same mentality, end out the game at 30, 70, 190? This is where you have to judge how everything looks in comparison to the general theme of the game.

The other area is difficulty. Heres where its more important. The primary reason for fighting endless amounts of livestock monsters is to make the fight with the bigger enemies easier. And the bigger enemies, they''re for show apparently. Since this about sums up RPG gameplay, its important to note who gets harder and when. Infrequent levels has on advantage to it. If the player is only going to see 30 levels throughout the game, then you can divide the game up according to levels. Make the EXP curve bend right and you can almost directly control what level the player is at in each area. However, with infrequent leveling, you lose control, but you get to make demands of the player. For instance, have some badass monsters in this cave thats on the linear plotline, and the player is effectively not allowed to enter until he/she goes out and builds up to where you want him/her to be.

-> Will Bubel
-> Machine wash cold, tumble dry.

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It''s tough to strike a good balance with leveling however one game I played recently that did a poor job balancing this was Pool of Radiance. I played that game off and on for a week and I only upped one level. In this case the problem wasn''t just not increasing in level, but my characters were very weak and killing people didn''t help much. This frustration was enough for me to quit playing the game.


--
http://www.3dcgi.com/

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It''s not really the level up that matters to most RPG players it''s what you gain from leveling up. If you gain reveltivly nothing like some stats and then the monsters get harder, the person has just accomplished nothing because fights take just as long as before and theere is nothing really new. However if you increase the difficulty but add in special attacks or something. Now the characters how new combos/spells/skills they can use to make fights more interesting.

Bleu Shift - www.bleushift.tk

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In the RPG I''m making I''m using a combination of slow and fast progress (inspired from Asheron''s Call). Let your characters advance levels rather slowly, but reward improvements during the progress.

In Asheron''s Call this worked in the way that you received experience points (WHOA?! ) that you could spend on your skills to improve them. Then, when your total experience pool has reached a certain value, you will gain a level. The good thing about this is that it can take you several days to gain a level, but you don''t have to wait all that time to see your character improve.

In Akarra (the game I''m making) we''re using a system similar to Diablo. Each level you get 5 "attribute points", but instead of rewarding all of these when you gain a level (as in Diablo) you get them one at a time during the progress of the level.

My point: If you use a "slow" system you should still reward the players frequently.



My Stuff : [ Whispers in Akarra (online rpg) || L33T WAR (multiplayer game) || The Asteroid Menace (another game) ]

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I played FF7 8 & 9, Baldur Gates and Might & Magic 8

From these game, I could go to the Final Boss of FF quite quickly (on FF8, I played one week, stopping only for eating and sleeping. )
But, to win this final battle, one have to have all one''s character at the highest level (99 and all stat at 9999) that means that one''s have to play a big time for the only goal of being powerfull instead of going to the next story plot (In ff8, I could go straightforward to the final battle around level 25)
So, for FF9, last time I played, I was just spending hours fighting in the world only to get to a minimal level (FF9 is 4 CD, so I want to reach level 25) Toooooooo boring ....

With Baldur gate and MM, on the contrary, I just played a few hours : first, fight are VERY tough, so you have to recrut all the PJ you meet, even the one you don''t want, otherwise you''re dead.
second, level limit is VERY high and XP gained are VERY few (and potion are VERY expensive)
Disgusting, I stopped and will not play again...

So, have an easy (at least at start) leveling up, and don''t oblige to play only for leveling up


----
David Sporn AKA Sporniket

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There is no reason why the improvements should be uniform across all levels. You can actually combine continuous development with sudden, big jumps.

For example, maybe as a mage, you can progress through levels 1-9 fairly quickly, with only fairly small increases in power at each step. However, as soon as you hit level 10, you get a big jump in power, maybe gaining a whole new set of spells or some cool new abilities. This way you can cater to both camps - those who like rapid levelling will see continuous improvement, whereas those who prefer to have big rewards also get their way.

Also, as PSWind said, levelling up doesn''t really mean much if the bad guys get proportionally harder. Sure, you need to keep the difficulty curve up, but why not throw the odd wussy bad guy in so the player can show off how hard he has become?

In regard to Baldurs Gate, I actually quite liked the way they did some of the random encounters. Rather than limiting the encounters to things you can easily beat, quite often you would meet opponents which were more powerful than you. You had to make a decision - stand and fight, or run away? I''d probably agree that in the early game you has to hit reload just a little too often though...

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You could try playing with the idea of not having a "level" counter, but rather appropriate attribute bonuses based on other things. Though, SagaFrontier and ChronoCross tried this and it didn''t work very well. However, one idea I haven''t seen yet is multiple experience lines, in that each attribute has it''s own exp counter, and increases differently based on which enemies are defeated, and probably how. Though, all of the arbitrary things that you would normal based off of level, you would have to rethink them.

Another thing you could try is something along the lines what Final Fantasy Tactics did, where even if you didn''t get a stat bonus on a level up, you still got a decimal record of it improved... It all happened without the player being notified or even given a clue that it works, but you could have 12.4 strength. Mathematically, it would only use the 12, but for experience purposes, the .4 counted, and getting a .6 bonus to strength on the next level means you did get a 13 in the strength category.

-> Will Bubel
-> Machine wash cold, tumble dry.

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"Romancing Saga 3 used random stat boosts, and that''s one of the best leveling systems I''ve ever seen... "

Yes so did the Bards Tale, but after a while, all your characters had 18 in every stat, which was great, but definitely unrealistic - I mean 6 genuises in one party? hehe

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Okay I''m posting again...

I liked Baldur''s Gate I own the whole series even though I haven''t even beat the first game yet. I believe a good way to level up is not satistically but skill wise. Have the player character learn additional spells and combos to beef him up. You have to admit your normal slash doing 10 more damage isn''t as cool as trying out a new attack you just obtained.

Also I believe varing the difficulty is a good idea. Don''t level up the monsters as the character levels but mix in the difficult monsets with the easy ones. Halo did this pretty nicely. There are little chump aliens everywhere but they mix in the medium elites and sometimes have you fighting the weak, medium, and tough sword guys/hunters are the same time. It''s really challenging and tends to be more fun than tedious.

Note: I''ve never completely designed a game and I haven''t created a game before. I just play a fair amount of games from diffrerent genres.

Bleu Shift - www.bleushift.tk

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Maybe we should establish some rules here, since half of us are console rpg players and the other half are computer rpg players. This makes a difference because consoles tend to treat the integer limit as max strength (i.e. 255) and computers rpg tend to work with smaller numbers, like the 16 mentioned before. Obviously only a multipler factor of 16 stands between them, but because we''re working with integer numbers and ignoring what I said about rational growth before, we have to take into account that a point in the prior is not worth as much as a point in the latter.

With this in mind, now we can make definative suggestions.

If your max is 16, and you start with 4 or 5, then you should make point gains infrequently, and only offer the chance of actually having 16 tied to immense exp requirements.

If your max is 255, and you start with 10 or 12, then single point gains should happen frequently, and the 255 will by pure nature of being 245 levels away, will have immense exp requirements.

If you want to give multiple point gains on a 255 max, then level up less frequently than 255 wants, but more frequently than 16 wants, and work out some multiplier that would do this, I.e. if the point gains are between 3 and 5, then the multiplier is 4, and by level 64 you would be maxed out.

Supposedly, being maxed out is the end goal, so you should make it possible, but only under the most extreme circumstances.

-> Will Bubel
-> Machine wash cold, tumble dry.

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I found that increasing stats independantly is a good way to go.

What i am doing is having stats go up a certain amount depending on their frequency of use, with a certain growth level assigned per stat.

Depending on what class the player is (pre-assigned) certain stats would raise above others. So, a warrior who likes to hits things with swords would have a REALLY high attack rate

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Ok then, so stats should increase independently of the player''s wishes, so a level up is a random stat increase. Should this occur every level, or every few? Im asking because Im thinking every two levels may be interesting, because health is increasing every level anyway.

Spectre Software - RPGs, strategy, puzzle games, programming

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I don''t think a random stat increase is very good idea at all.
Think of it this way, John the warrior is battling goblins with his sword, he''s getting wounded occasionly but nothing too serious, after he levels up he looks at his stats to see instead of his endurance and strength going up like you would think, instead his wisdom and intelligence have been given a boost. "Oh well can''t use that sword of insta-monster killing". It just doesn''t seem right to me.

My personal choice would be a system would be one where the player has no direct control over their stat increases apart from when creating their character at the start. Every time John uses his sword, he gets a little better at his sword skill he also gets a little stronger and maybe a little more agile. A "level up" could be when all these improvements are added on to the previous level stats and you get your mandatory health increase. In this system your skills would be going up every time you use the skills but you won''t see how much they''ve gone up until you go up a level.

Final Fantasy 2 on the NES has a good leveling system similar to the one I described above.

- DarkIce

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" Every time John uses his sword, he gets a little better at his sword skill he also gets a little stronger and maybe a little more agile"

This is an idea which at first seems to make a lot of sense. However it just isnt possible to do this for all stats and skills. For example, how do you rate when someone''s intelligence, personality or luck has been used and therefore improves? [all stats in necrotech]

In addition, some activities in RPGs take place throughout the game, whereas some are rarer. If you have the climbing skill, using your system, it would be tough luck that there arent that many walls to climb compared to people to fight. Penalising non-combat skills? I think so.

In short, a great idea, but weighted for hack and slash gameplay in my view, which is something Im trying to get away from.

Ive implemented the random stat increase into the engine and heres my view of it in practise... Its actually quite fun leveling up and seeing what goes up, kind of like unwrapping a christmas present to see what you get

Spectre Software - RPGs, strategy, puzzle games, programming

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Well intelligence can go up when you use magic or maybe do some research, your personality could go up when you successfully get some information by talking to someone or maybe working well with the rest of your party. Luck would be a hard one to increase maybe it could depend on how many critical hits you get or how many critical failures the enemy gets.

The climbing skill hmmm.... maybe you could have it where problems have more than one solution e.g. the player has to get to the top of a tower, he could just charge in through the front door or if he has a slight climbing skill he could climb up the ivy creepers to the first or second floors and then fight the rest of the way or if the character has a great climbing skill he could climb all the way to the top. This would be a good way to reward characters to think about other alternatives to the old hack and slash.

Or you could go the Fallout1/2 route and have magazines, manuals and people willing to teach just lying about.

In the end it doesn''t matter as you''ve already chosen your method.

- DarkIce

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kingy: I can''t really see personality as a statistic you increase.

I don''t think you can really measure personality as a statistic. Unless you mean CHarisma or the ability to persuade and barter with people.

kingy: You can''t rate luck.

Luck isn''t something you can improve it''s something you have and therefore you rule it out as a statistic. Luck is just a random number that is influenced by certain actions or even items or spells.

A good way to increase intelligence would be reading books and such. And sucessfully applying this knowledge to the rest of the game could increase Wisdom.

Climbing would probably be a subskill based upon a trait such as Dexterity or Strength.

A statistical increasement method where stats go up dependent upon their use is starting to get quite popular and frankly unoriginal.

DarkIce: Rewarding someone for doing a certain action over a more obvious actions sounds like someone is basing their ideas of AD&D rules/Baldur''s Gate.

I think the way Baldur''s Gate handles rewarding people for not taking the easy way out of a situation is a good way to create an RPG. I''m not saying that AD&D rules are the best or anything but simply recognizing the intelligence behind that decision.

Being rewarded for doing special things encourages special actions. At the end the player will usually feel more accomplished than if he never thought anything through and stormed through the game.

Oh and DarkIce: Having the player increase statistic from use is direct stat control.

Bleu Shift - www.bleushift.tk

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"kingy: I can''t really see personality as a statistic you increase.

I don''t think you can really measure personality as a statistic. Unless you mean CHarisma or the ability to persuade and barter with people."

Thats exactly what it is. It affects prices in shops, and how effective you are at lying to other people.

"kingy: You can''t rate luck."

Of course you can. Some people are "born lucky". A friend of mine consistantly has the worse luck ever, if something will go wrong, it will for him, lol

In my game, luck affects the frequency of random encounters, your starting money, your characters ability to hit others, and whether or not attempts at fleeing random encounters are successful.

Spectre Software - RPGs, strategy, puzzle games, programming

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I think the "elder scrolls" (Arena, Daggerfall and Morrowind) system is one of the best existing systems for a role playing game.

You have STATS: "Strength, Intelligence, Dexterity, Speed, ..."
and 3 levels of SKILLS: Major, Medium and minor skills. (Like climbing, archery, swords, casting, jumping, running, swimming, bargaining,...)

If you often use your major skills you will go up a level more quickly.
At each level, you get some points to distribute to your stats.
I think it's a very good way to do.

Be careful : You'd better not confuse stats and skills here:

Your skills (= what you are good at / concrete) are influenced by your stats (= what/how you are / abstracts).


[edited by - Cahaan on July 19, 2002 11:48:19 PM]

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