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Maitrek

What's with stats? (RPG)

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Been thinking a bit lately about the design of an RPG, and it''s something that I''ll assume bugs alot of game designers out there. Why the heck do we include stats? Isn''t it inherently obvious enough if your in-game character is bad? Is there any particular motivation for having these set restrictions on the character in the game - or has it just been something done from the dawn of time? On the one hand, it allows the game designer to control the development of the character''s growth during the game and the player might get this idea of like a developing fetus of a character or something. But on the other hand, doesn''t it kind of distance the player from the character. As in - "Why can''t I shoot this hand-gun, what the ****? I could shoot a handgun in real life what is up with my dumb a** guy - oh hell now I''m dead, great!" I don''t dispute that the computer needs some kind of way of gauging a characters strengths and weaknesses but does the player need to know? Another thing, with the classic game System Shock 1, there were no stats, in fact the entire game was based on the actual PLAYER''S skill, not a computer generated number saying "you can''t use this weapon well". And the response from those who have played it is amazing. The graphics were hopeless but everyone had these incredible experiences and fond memories of spasming in fear when a sec-bot comes around the corner and in their spasm lose control of the character and die. And all the other players go fondly "oh yeah - i remember doing that 1000 times"... What are other people''s thoughts on RPG stats and has anyone actually attempted to make an RPG style game without the player knowing the stats or being restricted by them?

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I think some people (e.g. me) like to have the idea their character is getting stronger, it also makes it more interesting, and to me it seems that it takes you longer to get bored of the game.
Unlike you I don''t think like "Why can''t I shoot this hand-gun, what the ****? ", I think I can''t wait to get my next move, it''ll be awesome.
Say there was a RPG with moves like in a beat-em-up. You would have all the moves from the begginning and you would know there was nothing else, I would get bored in a couple of hours.
Thats my thoughts anyway.

//end

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This has been discussed at much length under the Mental math and Ability Scores topics started by landfish. he, too, asked why have them. The answer is simple. In an RPG, the goal is to be SOMEONE YOU''RE **NOT**. Look at that closely. That means, the character has skills you don''t, they have abilities you don''t. So, you mention a "shooter" which is not a roleplaying game, but a themed game with a "you are the main man". There is no role you play, you run around shooting things. In this game you''re given a crosshair and you shoot things. The faster your hand eye coordination and the better reflexes and muscle movement control you have.. the better you''ll do. However, this is NOT role playing in the classical sense. Yes, you''re playing a role in a shooter. However, you''re not roleplaying. Roleplaying is playing the roll of someone you would not normally be, including doing things you would not normally be, as well as being places you would not normally be. Admittedly, you do all these in a shooter. However, in a shooter.. you have not changed, you are still you, the character posesses your skills. You have taken on a role, but you''ve not changed any. The big thing of roleplaying games, especially computer games, is to allow players to do things they themselves cannot do. If the character uses the player''s skills and stats, then they''re just themselves, superimposed in a different world with different resrictions. This falls under the "do game make people violent?" question Because, in being ourselves, unrestricted, we will commit violence. It''s human nature. So the person hasn''t changed at all in a shooter, they''re just not restricted to common morals and laws which society accepts. This is why you''re not playing a role, a simple vail has been pulled over your eyes and restrictions have been lifted. It allows you to be you

To play a role you become someone different. You get to know what they know, and you take on their stats. This way, a puny person can be big

However.. your problem seems to be, why show stats to a player? This is because players like to feel a sense of accomplishment. If you show them words, they will decifer it. This means you spent a lot of time turning numbers into words or prashes, only to have people turn them back to numbers. This is a ridiculous approach, because it can and will be found out. Before then, people will be disgusted that you tried to hide the stats and afterwards they will feel a sense of accomplishment over you. So if that''s what you really want.. go for it.
You can''t totally hide them from view. if the you think "how strong am i?" you come back with a rough estimate. So the player merely wishes to do the same with his character.

As to people who have a character pick up a gun and say "what, he can''t shoot?" well.. get a life buddy, that''s role playing. Some people can''t shoot guns. if you wanted a character that could shoot a gun, then make one to do so!!! don''t expect everyone to be perfect like you ;p
That''s all i have to say to those people.

J

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Because it''s role-playing???

If I want to play a mage with superior spellcasting ability, how is the computer to measure that? Even simpler, how is the computer able to understand how well my real-life self can shoot a gun? Sure, I can pull a trigger, but can I hit a target at 50 paces? How accurately?

How many people actually want to role-play themselves in a game? Not me... Roleplaying myself would be rather boring and probably get me killed real quick. (Let''s see... an overweight nerd battling a dragon with a slide rule... famous mathematics attack!) When I role-play, I want to be the strong warrior, or the crafty mage, or a stealthy thief, or the archer who can hit a target at 300 yards.

So how do we represent that to the computer? Numbers, numbers, numbers... Only other option I see is letting the player do what he wants. Which might be fine to some, but hurts the role-playing experience and would bore me rather quick.

Actually, what I would like to see is someone create an RPG in fuzzy-logic type style. In the end, the computer would still need the numbers, but players would see strength as "weak" or "average" or "strong" or "strong beyond belief". With a fair amount of adjectives and descriptors, it would provide better flavor, I think, than a pure number system.

---- --- -- -
Blue programmer needs food badly. Blue programmer is about to die!

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Stats provide a measure of improvement = feedback = encouragement that the player is succeeding = a sense of purpose and progression = fun.

Stats also provide a measure of who the character is. It''s nice to say that we should know by our actions how good or bad we are: however, in real life we usually have a lifetime of experience to tell us this: in an RPG we are generally put in control of a grown adult. The stats can reflect the player character''s perception of himself.

Stats don''t have to be represented numerically, but it is useful to have some sort of scale. You could perhaps have no explicit stats in the game, but instead have some sort of evaluation NPC: go along for some training, hand over your gold, and at the end of it the NPC gives you his opinion on your current level of expertise (with a little random factor, of course).

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I think one of the best courses of action is to overlay the raw statistics with a less raw layer. Measures can be taken to ensure "fuzziness" which might discourage leveling. Descriptive terms, colors, scales, or more subtle visual indicators will lessen the mathematical feel of games, and make PCs and NPCs feel more like people, not a collection of stats.

This should really be the crusade of the designer. How do we keep a viable system, while only presenting the player with the mood that suits our game? Players NEED to know where they stand with the character, stat-wise. But can''t we tell them in the same terms that we know ourselves in reality? You don''t know you have "This many points in Strength", but you generally have an indication. A football player is "pretty strong". A champion weight lifter is "Damn Strong". But we don''t kow ourselves down to the point (''cept maybe in lifted weight... but that doesn''t function at all in a game system.)

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RPG stats give unique characteristics to their characters. It gives a sense of purpose rather than just control 4, 5 guys who can do the same thing... no strategy...

Rogue Spear is another example of a good game with stats that are actually calculated into gameplay

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Okay - look at it this way. Why does the player need to know the numbers on the screen, or even words that describe it? Couldn't it just as easily be done that you could *really* see your character evolve physically and show physical signs of advancement, rather than just looking exactly the same as when we couldn't even take on a sheep. Except maybe with some armour.
I don't have a problem with the concept of numbers being used to measure strength in the computer, but I don't like the idea of stats restricting activities, or the player measuring his character in numbers.
This is a HUGE problem in MMORPGs where everyone runs around with these brilliant roleplaying conversations saying "What's your STR?" rather than "Tell us a tale of the strongest monster you have vanquished". It's not a good way of encouraging roleplaying.
And have u played system shock? It isn't your average "shooter" you have items and skills and abilities beyond just shooting and jumping. And u are playing a role that has abilities that u don't have in real life (like cyber hacking). So don't just say I claim a "shooter".
And anyone here say that System Shock 2 isn't a shooter? It is! But it got RPG of the year in the American PC gamer and god knows what else. And how many RPGs aren't based around violence. Any? None I can think of.
In lots of RPGs the character in the game has to learn each field as he goes along. And this goes from say hitting something with an axe, to having enough strength to hit it with a big axe and heal yourself (tank mage style most single player RPGs and MMORPGs end up at).
Numbers don't sufficiently represent the way the character actually gets better with the axe, why not suddenly make the character able to start combining different moves with the axe and visibally conveying to the player that the character dynamically kicks arse - instead of putting a percentage up?
Numbers just aren't as encouraging as visible proof that ur char kicks arse. Cause it's all about style and there IS technology to do this and it could've been done a year or two ago even.

And you can within the *players* abilities, become someone else, and be put into a situation that you aren't usually put in and act out that u are someone else. The player's real freedom in the role should be in how he reacts to situations. If you restrict the means in which the character reacts to situations then the player may not be able to execute the desired reaction, which suddenly takes away his free will to act out someone else.
Which basically sets down the same restrictions we have in real life which makes the whole roleplaying experience a nuisance. Roleplaying is a fine experience as it is, and in the right mindset it can be enjoyable, but I think it could be made better if some of the old formulae are ditched aside, the "tried & true" method isn't always the best.
Only problem with this is decreasing publisher confidence in different products cause they tend to like FPS "tried & true" methods as well. As a game designer I don't want to fall into the same philosophy.

Edited by - Maitrek on June 17, 2000 4:41:39 AM

Edited by - Maitrek on June 17, 2000 4:44:41 AM

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Guest Anonymous Poster
The only problem I have with stats in RPGs occers when playing MMORPGs.
I find it terriblly annoying seeing players run around yelling
"I''ve got 100 STR! WOO HOO!" in real life one would never say something like this, instead one would say "I am extreamly strong"

So I think players should not be allowed to see the exact number value of each skill and stat.
Instead their skills and stats would be described in words,


for example

If a player had 50 - 60 strength points out of a possible 100
the player would only be told that he/she was "Moderatly Strong"

this would allow for a bit more role playing in MMORPG as it would eleminate NON-role players from saying
"I''ve got 100 STR! WOO HOO!"



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Ok, i''ve said it before.. i''ll say it again.. people will quantify your words or phrases. DR had this.. it was very easy to tell when you were near dead or you were near full health. We all had slight speculation differences as to the ordering of these, but they were all pretty much the same. So, upon knowing this, we''d quantified words. "I have 7 more levels of words to go through before i die". People function on numbers, not words. And no matter what, people will make it numerical who want to powermax a character!

Now.. think about this. You can quantify things. How many attack styles do you know? Has anyone else heard of the 37 (i think) deadly styles? The whole Wu-Tang clan bit.. I mean, come on.. they know there''s X number of ways to kill a person single-handedly! They''ve quantified it.. so it''s possible to do. They''ve also managed to figure out all the pressure points on the body. You can count the number of ways of doing things. This supports my infinate skills with limited number of ways to do each skill, and infinate ways to combine them theory

Anyways.. if you don''t show them to the player, they''ll never know.
Think about this.. if you were to "see" your character bulk up, how would you see his mind getting bigger.. the head gets larger? i mean, physically.. you can represent growth. But what.. you gonna have the character have to take a test to find out how mentally proficient he''s feeling? I mean.. come on! some people suck at tests, and some don''t. Some people can''t do homework and some can! So how do you attribute this "wisdom" or "intelligence" with no way to find out? this wouldn''t do any good for the player except that their character would seemingly be able to do new things.

The only way to prevent OOC (Out Of Character) behavior is to strictly forbid it in your MMORPG. My girlfriend and I have outlined our own personal rules for this in our game. THanks to this thread, we sat down and talked about it, and figured out what we wanted to do about it. These policies will differ for all games.. but they SHOULD be enforced! Any players caught acting OOC should be punished, as it detracts from the gaming environment. My girl had a nice creative way of "helping" them to learn to roleplay No, i won''t tell you Landfish ;p

J

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Guest Anonymous Poster
Well - isn''t that enough? If the player sees the character doing new things then doesn''t that satisfy that whole "growth" thing anyway? Why does he need to be given a number for his intelligence if (lets say it''s related to mana for example) he can see that his character can now cast alot more spells before he feels drained.
The character won''t know how strong "50 Str" is in a game till he tests it anyway. The same way that the character will only know how strong he is until he tries to arm wrestle that troll that hangs around in the bar (okay, more like try and kill the troll roaming under the bridge, but the point remains the same).
Even if you tell the player what number of a stat he has, even intelligence or wisdom, he can''t always immediately associate that with how good he really is, he *has* to test it out. The same way that if he''s been practising spells for ages and he thinks he''s getting better, then he should go and test it out to see how proficient he is.
Whether you give a player a number or not, it doesn''t help his/her understanding of his ability unless he/she has played the game for a while.
And seeing as these numbers tend to detract from roleplaying, and they don''t seem to serve any amazing purpose, then that''s why I say the player doesn''t need to know the numbers.

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That''s a good point,Maitrek. Also, that idea models life more because you don''t notice small increases in a skill very much in real life. You notice a difference in retrospect that you''re much better at something now than you were 2 months ago. If there''s numbers telling the player every single little increase, it is quite unrealistic.

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NOOOO! His head gets larger! That is the solution! Wouldn''t that be freaking *excellent*?

"Yo, stay away from Big-head Jake. He''s one bad motha."

"Coo. Why do they call him Big-head Jake?"

"''Cause he''s got a big huge head, man. Don''t you know what that means?"



"Is that him? HAHHAHAHHAHAAHAAH..."



Come on, it could totally work!

mikey

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ok, that post wasn''t nearly as funny as it should have been...

it was supposed to have comments on how Jake walks in before the guy starts laughing and then turns the guy into a miniature poodle and then has to turn sideways just to get his massive intellect through the door. If only I weren''t a complete screwup. Ah well.

mikey

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Yeah, I could picture that actually.

Before the wizard casts his spell his head starts to throb violently...

An overwhelming hummm encasts the surrounding area as great balls of light stream down through the giant head, down over the shoulders and arms and out through the finger tips....

A thundering rush of power strikes forth at the evil enemies and the wizards head shrinks in size to indicate his loss of mental strength.. haha

I obviously watched to many cartoons when i was young! I''ll answer more seriously later, it was just such a great opportunity ;-)

Paul C



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Three words: Zelda don''t have stats.

Programming is:
A.The art of debugging a blank sheet of paper (or an empty file).
B.A pastime similar to banging one's head against a wall, but with fewer opportunities for reward.
C.The most fun you can have with your clothes on (although clothes are not mandatory).

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Adding a layer of abstration to the stats system of an RPG is a great idea, as long as you think it through.

As Niphty pointed out, no matter how you make it know (decriptive words, actions, whatever) people will eventually quantify it with a number (pulled from a FAQ or stradegy guide, if nothing else). So you have to accept that at least some of your players are going to ignore this nifty system you set up.

The second thing is that some people LIKE thier numbers in RPGs. People that min/max are great for that. So they aren''t going to appreciate the effort you''ve made to add that layer of abstraction.

Also, it requires a lot of thought in order to do properly. For example: I go to the weapon shop looking for something a little better to pound away at those hordes of undead that is plaguing the nearby town. I''m equally good with a sword or axe (as far as I know, anyway). They have Ye Sword of Much Wounding and an Axe of Much Sharpness. Now, I don''t have any sort of attack number to work with, so how do I know which weapon is better? Buy them both, and try them out?

Sword:
You hit Zombie for Medium Damage (it''s actually 21 points of damage, but you don''t know that)

Axe:
You hit Zombie for Medium Damage (it''s actually 28 points of damage, bout you don''t know that either)

Now, the axe is better, but you have no way of knowing without a descriptive system so precise that you''re using numbers anyway! Abstracting some of the stats only makes things confusing. If I only know in general how my strength is, but know specific amount of damage, am I hitting harder because of that new sword or is it the level raise/strength training paying off?

Not to discourage people from using something other than numbers to make it more of a role-playing experience and less of a dice-fest, but make sure that not using numbers hasn''t made your system harder to work with. For example, I don''t like the idea of knowing how many hit points you have. (Oh! I can take exactly 1 more hit without dying!) But at the same time, I don''t like a fixed economy in the world, so that everything is the same price no matter where you go, and more expensive always means better quality (doesn''t work like that here, why should it in a game?). However, price (a number, I should point out) is the only way to judge the effectivness of your armor without any other concrete stat.

I''m willing to hear ideas for a working system of hiding stats, and even more willing to help poke at the holes and flaws : )

Food for thought,

Silvanis

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That''s a good point, and it had crossed my mind and I was hoping people would pay enough attention to the topic to bring that up, thankfully this was the case (more often than not these things can degrade to childish name calling, but hey - where''s the fun without that).
Gauging a weapon''s strength after you''ve bought it can be annoying, and sometimes we have to do it in real life, but that doesn''t make it any fun. And we aren''t aiming at real life here, we are aiming at fun.
On the one hand, you could go ahead and add a nice little abstract layer by asking the NPC what he thinks of two weapons compared blah blah, but even then, as previously stated multiple times, players will just tend to quantify that somehow or other in their minds.
On the other hand you could give the player a number. This has one problem - it reduces roleplaying, but it has the benefit of allowing the player to accurately make a good purchase.
I''m not sure I believe the player would feel they''ve some how mentally succeeded the game designer by deciphering what an NPC says of a weapon (as I think was previously mentioned in a reply to this post) but it could annoy players.
This is the annoying problem with not having stats. Sure it would greatly increase the amount of roleplaying in any online community, but when it comes to keeping the player happy with informed purchases it totally blows.
My suggestion - have an NPC appraise the weapon based on what he would apparently "see" about the character in the game. For instance, if you have a stronger sword mastery (sure the NPC can''t know this but does it really matter?) then the NPC will recommend the sword but if the axe had higher damage and the abilities were equal then he might suggest the axe. It does depend tho and some kind of weightage between the actual strength of the weapon and the character''s preferred class.
I dunno - random babblings.

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Ok here's a serious idea. When it comes to weapons and whether or not your character can wield a weapon based on his or her strength.

Taking the inventory idea from Diablo, the players inventory is made up of boxes (i'm getting to a point, please bear with me). This inventory system could also be used for determining whether or not a player could wield a weapon.

When a player attaches a weapon to their character is goes in a (weapon)portion of the inventory. The stronger the player the more space they have in this portion of the inventory. Now you can get rid of the strength stat forever if this is all it is going to be used for in the game.

The more boxes left over in the weapons portion of the inventory then the more bonus modifiers they get when using a weapon. This way a huge man/woman wielding a knife will get the deserved damage modifers.

You could also allow weapons to be used by people who are not strong enough to wield a particular weapon. If the weapon carries over in boxes that are highlight as not useable then for each one of these boxes the weapon carries of into the character gets a negative modifier.

Think about it, a small man/woman could wield a large axe but not with much success.

Paul C

Edited by - Paul Cunningham on June 19, 2000 9:06:27 AM

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Still - however, that doesn''t solve the problem is the player got a weapon and it doesn''t work very well on his character? Or perhaps not as good as another weapon might have.
But I like the idea you had but that doesn''t technically get rid of strength, you could just count up the number of squares?

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quote:
Original post by Maitrek

Still - however, that doesn''t solve the problem is the player got a weapon and it doesn''t work very well on his character? Or perhaps not as good as another weapon might have.
But I like the idea you had but that doesn''t technically get rid of strength, you could just count up the number of squares?


So you need something a little more analog than squares, fare enough that can be solved. I probably should reply yet as i''m sure a can work out the other problem (weapon not working as well).

Thinking... ok, maybe i''m trying to help solve the problem from a too higher level. Let''s look at the nitty gritty.

Barbarian vs Swordsman: Barbarian can wield heavy axe but can not wield a sword (lighter) as well as the swordsman. Is this becasue a sword is a smarter weapon. ie. intelligence is an attribute to getting to most out of a sword?

So maybe you need more than one attribute when working out whether or not a character can use a weapon (yeah, aready done). But what if these extra attribute were represented in the inventory system i mentioned earlier.

An analog inventory system could work with a bar (like health and mana in diablo). When you drop a weapon in this bar (indicating that you wish to wield it) the bar/s drop/s. One bar per attribute.

Hmmm, that''s my thought for the day.

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What''s the big deal about quantification? So, you give some fuzzy verbal descriptions of numerical stats, and people might try and work them out, or express them numerically. So what? Some of you have already stated above that this happens in real life too. It''s as if you''ve taken the original point, something like "RPGs with numerical stats are unrealistic and allow you to precisely powergame due to manipulating the numbers", and blown it out of all proportion to "numbers are the devil''s work and I don''t want anyone mentioning a number in my game!!".

Players need to see progress, and they need to be able to see relative abilities. They don''t have the benefit of years of hindsight like we do to judge their own abilities from. They also don''t have the detailed amount of sensory feedback that we do. Imagine 2 guys lifting the same weight: they may both succeed in lifting it, yet one did it without thinking whereas the other struggled. Yet in most systems, the difference between succeeding by 1% and succeeding by 90% is irrelevant. And to give this kind of feedback is often distracting from the game. This is why you can''t really judge your character just on successes and failures. Players in game tend to do more risky things than in real life, too. Should everyone try to kill a dragon just to see if they can or not? If so, you''re damaging the game by forcing reloads, which translate to out-of-character knowledge anyway. If they instead avoid everything as they have no way of judging relative strength, your game becomes boring as no-one dares try the fun stuff. Far better to give them some scale of self-rating, to at least let them make an educated guess.

Sure, abstract numbers away and hide them from the user, but don''t stress too much if they bring numbers back!

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There has to be some kind of accurate measurment system, or else people would just get frustrated trying to figure out if they can do something. Obscuring things takes away the fun part, by putting in a tedious part. The best part (IMHO) of RPG is character development. It's great knowing that you started with 10 strength, and that you've worked hard, and now your at 25. If you made it unclear, why would anybody bother trying to develop their character, since they wouldn't know what's happening?

In real life we don't have numbers to measure how strong we are, our brain gauges things automatically, so we know our limits. When you try to pick something up, you get feedback from the nerves in your muscles telling your brain that it's heavy/light. We can't sense what our characters' feel, so we have to have some kind of accurate way to measure things. Numbers are natural for humans, if they weren't, we would have never used them in the first place.

Just becuase it isn't like real life doesn't mean it's bad.

And BTW, Zelda does have stats, but it's not numbers, it's hearts and "how many times I have to hit something before it dies".

Edited by - pacman on June 20, 2000 6:24:41 PM

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