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Wavinator

Making stat heavy game appealing...

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Okay, obviously if you hate lots of stats you''re not going to like a stat heavy game... but for those on the fence, how do you do it? Let''s say you''ve got a game where just about every element in the game world is represented by a series of stats that the player can modify. They also have a large number of modifiable stats. While a stat-monger is going to just jump right in, those not so inclined but who still want to play are going to be confronted with a wall of numbers. My solutions: 1) Make all stats count, just don''t make more than 7 count at any one time (supposedly the average person can''t keep track of more than seven things). This means challenges and activities need to be segmented into phases and modes that are clearly called out once the game switches into them. 2) Explain every stat: It''s minimum and maximum ranges; what it is affected by; what it affects; and how it can be changed for better or for worse 3) Layer stats into efficiency hierarchies: This means that the stats count on other stats, and that players only need to delve deeper if they want a bonus in gameplay. They don''t need to know the whole game model right off they bat, they only need to know a few key elements in order to play. However, if they want to master the game, they''ll (hopefully eagerly) need to dig deeper. Comments? Additions? Corrections? -------------------- Just waiting for the mothership...

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Personally, I really like the third option.

I think number one would seem pretty lame in most cases, like ging the player a gun and them using those related skills, then having them "lose" it so they can use their sword skills. If you go for this option, I think you''d be better to make a smaller game, or a set of obviously different mini-games that are somehow attached. Of course if the game naturally fell into this setup, like a triathalon or something, it would work, though it would still be a lot to remember between sessions of each different task.

Number two wouldn''t be too good. I like games with a lot of stats and stuff to take care of, but having to read a ton of stuff would just be information overload. I want to have fun, not study.

I like number three best. It gives players at different levels, the amount of control they want. Even an advanced player, who just wanted to quickly change some stuff would appreciate the layered approach. The trick would be to make each layer build upon the previous layer, not just add a bunch of new options. For example (first one that came to mind), in a skill system, you could get more skilled in offensive combat. The advanced player could chose from several weapons to upgrade his offensive skill in. The highly experienced player, could choose to significantly upgrade the accuracy of his pistol, but only slightly upgrade the reload time. The key is, that when points are put into a general area, they''re spread among the specifics, but when put in a specific area, they add into the whole. So if I had 100 offensive skill that I added at the broad level, all my attackes would be a bit better all around. On the other hand, using a fine level of skill, I might now be able to punch through hugh concrete slabs, but practically shoot myself in the foot with a pistol. This is just an example which could be adjusted to other stats.

I''ll suggest a possible fourth option, a combination of the first two. The player starts the game using only a small subset of the stats. They read or are taught about them and get to use them. Then later, instead of progressing to a new set of stats as they progress, more stats are added and they read/learn some more. This way, they only encounter a small set of stats at a time, but it would accomadate a fairly large set of stats later in the game. A lot of strategy board games work like this, Squad Leader for one.

tj963

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quote:
Original post by Wavinator
1) Make all stats count, just don''t make more than 7 count at any one time (supposedly the average person can''t keep track of more than seven things). This means challenges and activities need to be segmented into phases and modes that are clearly called out once the game switches into them.

The Rule of 7 is much-quoted and sadly, much misunderstood The idea is that you can only store between 5 and 9 pieces of essentially random information in short-term memory at any one time. Short-term memory in this context is a matter of seconds, say 20 or so. The rule is therefore more indicative of instant recall tasks, which are not really what you get in a game where you are exposed to the stuff for a protracted period of time.

(Go here for more details.)

So what does this tell us? That we''re not limited to 7 at all, providing that we aren''t flashing the items up on screen and expecting the player to remember them all a minute later. There''s really no reason why an average player can''t easily learn the different meanings for 10 or 20 different stats, providing they can continually see the names and refer to a manual or online help. This does come under your second point, really, but the idea is that you take steps to ensure that the stats and their relevance is imprinted in long-term memory by allowing the player to refresh their knowledge at any point.

quote:
3) Layer stats into efficiency hierarchies: This means that the stats count on other stats, and that players only need to delve deeper if they want a bonus in gameplay.

This too will help the memory and learning aspect, as it''s easier to remember things that are grouped together. However it potentially punishes the player that doesn''t want to delve much deeper. (Arguably, games like Alpha Centauri did this with their city governors - leave them to make decisions for you, and they may be sub-optimal.) From a philosophical point of view, I prefer to make it easier for a player to learn than to make it so that they don''t have to learn. That is largely because I enjoy learning myself, and never let the computer do anything for me that I can do manually.


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If the player finds it necessary to remember the exact detail of every stat he has, then there''s something odd about your game''s design. If the results of actions flow naturally out of what kind of stats(or skill levels) the player has, then even a large number of them should be easy to remember: "Aha, I can kick this door down because my Strength is high!" "I couldn''t fight those guys, they are much faster than I am!"

The line of "too many stats" is when the player has to consult the list for his every action: "I know my character is strong, but how good is he at Kicking Doors Down?" "Gee, those guys have a high Battle Agility, and mine is low, I wonder what that means? Oops."

So basically, when possible use the same stat to represent multiple abilities. Otherwise, the layering system idea would work best, though making one that doesn''t confuse anyone is difficult.

Making the world furry one post at a time

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I''d definetely go with the third option - hide the stats until the player wants/needs to get involved. As for the second option, maybe apply the third idea to it - document all the stats, but keep the docs out of the player''s way unless he needs them. It''s about making the game appealing to all sorts - if you hide most of the stats and give them decent default settings, then people can access your game on different levels - the min/max fiddler types, the more casual gamer, the perfectionists, etc. Increase your potential target audience and all that.

Maybe have the stats automatically adjust if the player wants, or at least make sure you give well balanced default settings. Keep the majority of the stats out of the normal UI - let the player access them if he wants, but not otherwise. You could structure this in layers as tj963 suggested, or just let the player mix and match. Basically, unless you want the stat-heavy aspect to be a central feature of the game, keep them out of the player''s way unless he wants it otherwise. "Black boxes with lids" or some such. Just my two cent.

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Guest Anonymous Poster
tj963: #2 is necessary, how else will any of the stats matter?!
What''s the point of all the stats if they don''t mean anything?

1) all stats should count, otherwise it''s stupid, and anyone who has the patience to take on a stat-heavy game will be perfectly willing to think about all the combinations and interactions

3) is brilliant!

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If any of you have played ff8, their stat system was a failure to most people. It was complex and VERY modifyable but the learning curve was very high. For peets sake, I had to play the game twice before I understood it. Their downfall was that everything was modifyable and it became overwhelming.

However, ff7 did a very good job of keeping modifyability and simplicity. They allowed you to set certain elements based on a user''s progression in the game(you get more weapon slots as you get better weapons, hence progress) so the complexity gradually was added. If you get a chance, check out how they did it.

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