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Character stats: how to display them? (RPG)

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First off, I know there are threads out there that talk about this, but I couldn't find any of them (they're probably too old to find one by one, and searching is broken right now) I'm working on a fantasy (swords, axes, bows&arrows, magic, etc) RPG game. Now, characters have stats and their advancement is based on their actions (ie. alot of magic use will raise the magic stats) and the advancement is "gradient" (ie. instead of advancing 1 point every 100 hits, you advance .001 points every hit). Now the thing here is that I don't want the GUI to display the number the stat has (ie. Strength 28, Dexterity 25, etc), specially because stats are capped at 100 (and as the stats approach the caps the speed at which they gain decreases, probably making it impossible to reach the cap; not that the time played the game will allow it, a regular player is expected to end the game with 75 in their best stat) Given this, if I show the real number, it will give an idea of how much of the game is completed, and the fact that stat gain rate will decrease over time can make stat gaining annoying and desperating. I definately need to somehow display the stats of the characters, not only because the topic of keep the player playing, but also because the player will have more than one character at a time so there needs to be some point of comparison. In the end I will probably have to show the number when the mouse is over the stat, but I want to have it that way, somehow hidden and not on the sight of just opening a GUI window, and have some other, different display on the main character GUI window. To me, numbers are not the best idea, as I want to avoid the math playing in the game. A bar probably wouldn't be a good idea either, because it gives an even better idea of how far the stat is from the cap. So, can you propose ideas on how to display the stats of the characters? Looking forward to your ideas. later

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ok, my current pick is as follows (not sure if it's my own idea, perhaps someone posted it before or some variation of it, I came up with it but it was probably floating around my subconscious)

what I don't like about numbers is that they're blind, they don't represent reality in an accurate way (like saying my character has 22 strength). they also give an idea of how close you are to the cap (our cap is 100 for every stat, if I have 10 strength I know I'm 10% done until the cap, and if I know I'm like halfway through the game I will probably want to get to 60 so the game is in theory easier)

my idea is that we make those values measured with reality values, which will not only be useful for the game (more on that later) but also stay abit more away from the representation of the cap

for example, the strength stat will be indicated in kg, the amount of weight the character can carry (which after all, is strength, really). that is useful because you can tell how much you can carry for the inventory, and you can still keep track of your character's progression (hey, 2 days ago I could carry 40 kg and now I can carry 45 kg! -or whatever), but keeps it away from the cap because you vaguely know the limit of how many a human can carry in kg at the most.

magic could be represented with how many m^2 you can fill of fire or ice or whatever your element is, agility on how much time you run 100m flat, endurance how much time you can run without getting tired (which would also be useful to know in-game), etc
of course we'd need to properly think of these representations, this are just some ideas thrown there to better represent the whole thing of displaying stats

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How about this, if your RPG is fairly wordy, you could display the stats with a relational term.

Strength:
- Wimpy
- Frail
- Weak
- Average
- Bulky
- Strong
- Powerful
- Extreme
- Herculean
- Omnipotent

Intelligence:
- Dunce
- Dimwitted
- Slow
- Average
- Bright
- Sharp
- Smart
- Genius
- Socratic
- Omniscient

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hmm my idea was thrown into the trash

about yours Inmate2993, it's good but then it's just the same as using numbers (labels instead) but they are less, so you see a title that stays sitting there and doesn't change for long, so you don't have that feeling you're advancing

any more ideas people?

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Well, its a basic problem of display. You want to show them their numbers, but not let them know when the numbers have gotten big? Sounds paradoxal.

How about this, in Xenogears (PS1), the character stats are displayed with a number and a bar. The bar however is a relative bar, in relation to the other stats, so the largest stat will always have the full bar. The numbers change throughout the game, getting larger, but the bars give no hint as towards your overall progression, just relative progression.

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Quote:
Original post by zEROx
it's good but then it's just the same as using numbers (labels instead) but they are less, so you see a title that stays sitting there and doesn't change for long, so you don't have that feeling you're advancing

any more ideas people?

If you want a frequent reminder for the player that their characters develop the skills, just tell them so without using any hard numbers. I.e. instead of the usual:

"Your skill in Single-handed Swords has increased to 74"

in the combat log use rather:

"You could swear you're getting better at this sword waving business"

or something to that effect. Then you can combine it with the labels instead of numbers to further hide the exact stats from the player.

The original idea is interesting as well, just afraid there's quite a few skills which would be difficult to give the feedback on in this manner... like this very sword fighting thingie, e.g.

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actually I don't want to show the numbers, but we need a way to make the player be able to keep track of their character's advancement. However my programmer insists on using numbers or at least somehow hide them.

Inmate2993, If we used the relative bars, you wouldn't be able to tell your advancement if all stats advance the same over time, I guess it could work but you can only tell advancement regarding other stats, not in relation to the same stat over time.

tolaris, actually we're not going to have anything in the game log regarding advancement, because as I stated in my first post, we use "gradient" stat advancement, so you're -always- getting better at the stat as you keep fighting or doing whatever thing that increases it. We won't be displaying that you're getting better at swordfighting every time you hit the enemy, and we won't be telling the character that he's getting better only at certain times because he's -always- getting better.

the thing here is how to display the stats in the character menu in the GUI, which is actually how you tell the player of his character's advancement, but always how it is displayed in the character menu

the original idea was good but my programmer believes that would be intentionally obfuscating the stats for no real reason, so the stats would be vague


my programmer's idea is to use 6 to 10 small bars (each with the shape of a gem, each labeled in the same fashion as Inmate2993 suggested in his first post) that get filled with advancement.
my programmer didn't mention this, but we could hide the remaining bars so the character doesn't know how many of them are yet to fill (and therefore, he won't have an idea of the % of the game beaten, which is what I wanted to avoid)
sounds like the way to go, unless you guys can come up with something better

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Quote:
Original post by zEROx
actually we're not going to have anything in the game log regarding advancement, because as I stated in my first post, we use "gradient" stat advancement, so you're -always- getting better at the stat as you keep fighting or doing whatever thing that increases it. We won't be displaying that you're getting better at swordfighting every time you hit the enemy, and we won't be telling the character that he's getting better only at certain times because he's -always- getting better.

I understand; what i meant was, you can have this sort of message triggered whenever given skill changes by predefined amount (so not necessarily after every smallest change) strictly as a sort of small reminder/reward for the player ... since you were concerned that otherwise the player wouldn't see the quantized stats in their character sheet change often enough to feel satisfied with rate of their character's progress.

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I think a relative system would be more useful, really.

The problem is that gamers demand an absolute measure of skill. It has to be a point on a continuum if it's going to be measured, and so you can either have a percentage, or a number from 0 to x, or an infinitely incrementing value. No matter, what, it'll be a number. Heck, everything in the program is some sort of a number at heart, but that's a little too extreme for a theoretical discussion like this one, and won't do us any good.

However, I think that the absolute system is a little bit flawed. If you have twenty-five newbs in a room, and they all have a sword skill between 5% and 7%, they'll all be painfully aware of their newb status, and know that they all suck a lot. But in a more realistic (how I loathe that word) sort of scenario, if you get twenty-five adventurers in a room, and they've all got swords, they'll immediately size each other up and figure, "I could take that dude," or "Whoa, that guy looks tough."

So maybe some sort of relative system of representation would be more appropriate. If you've got six brigands all hanging out together, the one with 15% sword skill would be called "Blade", and nobody would screw with him. But when a Templar comes down the road with his 87% sword skill and his PUSD strapped to his back, Blade will avoid eye contact and keep well out of the way.

How could this "sizing up" be implemented in-game? Could you have a way to examine monsters/characters to get a "this guy looks like meat" or "I wouldn't want to get within axe-range of that orc" sort of evaluation? After all, all stat-comparison boils down to that age-old question: Who would win in a fight?

Should this be immediately available, like a colored halo around the other guy (hurts immersion), or maybe an animated response that your character performs automatically (hurts identity)? Maybe it should require a "size up" command (clumsy). Perhaps you could set your character's carriage and gait to convey your status (easily abused). It's a tough choice.

Maybe a sort of fame system could be included. You see a guy and your character recognizes him as the three-time bronze medalist at the pugilist olympics. Maybe he's the guy who shot Wild Bill. It's vague, but if you could pair it with a more direct "intuition" about someone, it would be decent.

So get rid of the numbers and replace them with "Sissy", "Inferior", "Even Match", "Superior", and "Supertough". Put one of these next to categories like "fisticuffs", "swordfight", "gunfight", "debate", "footrace" or "H4xX0R1N6".

But if you needed a screen that tells you how tough you yourself are, then I recommend some kind of standardized testing, like the 100m dash or the beer keg bench-press or whatever, so that you could have a really good idea of your strengths and weaknesses. It's not perfect, but it would seem more organic.

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Heres an idea outside the box. How about linking the stats display with the Bestiary.

The way this could work is, for each stat, locating the player's character on a chart showing in relation which enemies are weaker and which are stronger. Or, listing next to stat names what the player's character could take on given his skill.

Strength: 2x Ogre
Intelligence: 1x Kobold Mage

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Colors?
Icons?
Animations? (e.g. faster/slower)

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Fruny, those are good ideas. I'm reminded (yet again) of Kengo. For those who haven't read my posts before, Kengo is a tournament fighter for the PS2 set in feudal Japan. You train and cultivate your character through various activities and challenges, learning moves from schools, stringing them into combos, and doing mini-games to "train" your base stats. It's awesome.

In that game, when you go up against an adversary, you can't see their numbers, but you quickly notice how fast they are, how hard they hid, how nimbly they move, or how quickly their ki bar fills up. It's not obvious from looking at them, but when you face off, you can usually learn a lot about them in the first few seconds.

My internal monologue for these fights is something like, "Holy smokes, this guy is fast! I've got to watch my distance. That thrust combo is brutal, but it's not too tough to sidestep. Well, he doesn't really hit too hard, so if I can pick my chances and make solid connections, my attack power should overwhelm him." This sort of learning experience in each fight is really immersive and interesting for me. Surely some similar experience can be produced with a good RPG.

I'd like to be able to tell something about them before we cross swords, though. Especially in PvP, it'll be a real pain to have to get your butt kicked six times before you remember that one guy.

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Original post by Iron Chef Carnage
How could this "sizing up" be implemented in-game? Could you have a way to examine monsters/characters to get a "this guy looks like meat" or "I wouldn't want to get within axe-range of that orc" sort of evaluation? After all, all stat-comparison boils down to that age-old question: Who would win in a fight?

Should this be immediately available, like a colored halo around the other guy (hurts immersion), or maybe an animated response that your character performs automatically (hurts identity)? Maybe it should require a "size up" command (clumsy). Perhaps you could set your character's carriage and gait to convey your status (easily abused). It's a tough choice.

Not directly related, but reminded me of a comic strip dealing with the '_very_ visible power difference' subject...

http://thenoob.keenspace.com/d/20040611.html

:s

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A good game is like a spreadsheet. [grin] With that being said, I'll try to give constructive ideas instead of just advocating the use of numbers.

Don't forget that the way you model your system doesn't have to be the same than the way you represent it. Numbers are easy to control and to build a robust system on. After the system works and is balanced, then think of a way to represent it in a more mundane way.

And even if you displayed skills as numbers don't need to be exact. You could add noise to the numbers before representing them, put them through all sort of nasty nonlinear functions (representing the character's belief and uncertainty on his skills) or whatever. If the character has the trait "overconfident" you could add a large random number to each of the stats at representation layer.

Using numbers might make the game look like a spreadsheet, but numbers are understandable and have fewer personal connotations that might make them seem inappropriate for certain situations. I mean, which is better to have, a phenomenal fighting skill or a flabbergasting one? Beats me. Especially when sometimes such systems that use words force the player to make a decision whether he is stupid or ugly. Personal connotations can make a good system look repulsive. Also, when I see numbers for stats, I instantly know what's going on. When I see words, I have to think "Ok, what does this mean? Does good fighting skill mean that I can kill orcs with one hit? Two hits? What?!" If you want to use words, then use more descriptive ones than just "good". E.g. Strength: You can kill an orc with one hit. The descriptive system is much like Inmate2993 suggested, but from a pragmatical perspective. Still it'd be too vague for instant recognation. With numbers you at least have an idea what 100 means when you're 20 and have seen 10, but you'll have no idea what "overwhelmingly flabbergasting" even if you knew what "dumbfoundinlgy awesome" or "incomprehensibly staggering" meant. Trying to estimate the skills the character has should be something the character does (i.e. this is the part when you add the random part to the number). Don't make the player do the work of the character.

You can't just e.g. represent strength by telling how much you can carry. Strength, as an game stat, is a much more abstract concept. It represents much more, as it affects your melee damage or what have you. Any stat is an abstraction. This isn't even really an argument for the sake of realism but rather for the basic philosophy that mixing different levels of abstraction is just not right. A perfect example of this is the misuse of hit points. It is a very abstract concept which originally did not measure "physical health" but rather "fighting capability". Then, when you start to add more mundane concepts around it, like fatigue (which in a way is already a part of the hit point concept), then you get ridiculous results and the players start asking why having 1 hit point allows you to fight perfectly.

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Original post by Grim
With numbers you at least have an idea what 100 means when you're 20 and have seen 10, but you'll have no idea what "overwhelmingly flabbergasting" even if you knew what "dumbfoundinlgy awesome" or "incomprehensibly staggering" meant.


A good observation. I hated the system Heroes of Might & Magic used to estimate the size of enemy forces. You look at a little orc on the map and it says, "A Handful of Orcs", or "Lots of Orcs", or "A Pack of Orcs", or "Zounds... Orcs". I never figured it out, and so I'd spend a lot of time getting reamed by enemies thinking that "lots" was less than "a pack", or vice versa. Other times, I'd cower in terror before a group that I could have beaten easily, only to have an NPC hero come in, dispatch them handily, and then loot my territory. Infuriating.

If you're going to have a semantic description, make sure the hierarchy is available as a quick reference.

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Many martial arts denote a rough skill level by the colour of a belt that they wear. You could have a similar system where you are rated as somewhere between white belt and black belt in swordsmanship or shieldwork or whatever.

Obviously, you would change this from belts to whatever makes more sense in your game fiction. The other thing I would recommend is that instead of having these go up automatically, you have to return to a city or the like to get appraised. For example, you go to the fighter's guild, do a little sparring with the weaponsmaster there, and he announces that you are now a "Silver Sash swordsman". Similarly the Mages' Tower decides to award your spellcaster the 5th Tome, as she has now progressed past the 4th.

Benefits:
- Descriptive terms help preserve the game fiction more than numeric ones do
- Relative terms allow direct comparisons and a sense of progress
- The assessment requirement creates an air of anticipation

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