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RPG without XP?

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Imagine an RPG where you don't gain experience points. Experience Points are a prevalent convention in RPGs. They allow you to improve your abilities at certain skills, Thet usually improve Maximum Hit Points too. What are the reasons why people like XPs, what do they specificaly add to games that have them, why do people take for granted that their character is gain lots of Hit Points. What would people miss if they were gone, and how might one implement this if it was decided that this was too important to remove.

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Experience points are mainly a system to cause the character to grow.
if you can replace experience with something else that will cause the character to become stronger, then perhaps you could do away with it.

In RPGs players expect an enemy from the beginning of the game to be easier than an enemy at the end of the game, but with no growth a player may have a hard time at the end of the game even when exploring areas with enemies from the very beginning.

Then again buying new armor and equipment could act as growth, and if it's done right I see no reason why you shouldn't be able to remove experience points, although with that removing your armor or weapon could cause you to become just as much of a weakling as you were in the beginning.

For example:
Player kills King Argomnon(or some other huge sounding enemy), then decides to visit his home town(where he started) and takes off his armor, then is surprised by a mini meek mouse(or some other weak enemy variant) and dies.

Well that's about all I can think of.

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I'd check out Unlimited Saga for PS2. It's cheap; you can probably find it used for about 10$ US. The whole system is different. You learn different skills be practicing with simpler versions of them. For example, if you chose Quick Attack (names not necessarily accurate) with a dagger, it might do a Jab. After some practice, you might learn Slash, and then doing a Quick Attack has a chance of doing a Slash as well. Really, I can't do it justice describing it here. Search for a FAQ about it to get a better idea.

tj963

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Experience Points (XP) are a simple method of tracking progress through the game that players can easily understand.

One of the reasonably common alternatives is to have stats/skills increase through usage rather than awarding a set of points that the player can then distribute. Of course, in some games your XP aren't directly used for upgrading stats and/or skills - Diablo for example. In diablo your XP is used to track your current Level, and gaining an additional level will get you a number of points to improve your character as you see fit.

The system of increasing skills and/or stats through usage rather than through a point-buy system is a fairly good one, but it does tend to introduce a bit of a treadmill feel, where repeated use of a particular skill (or group of skills) is required in order to become powerful enough to meet whatever your current larger goal is. This can be aided somewhat by giving the player different options for practicing a certain skill - e.g. different types of monsters to fight when training a combat skill, or alternatively training dummies or practicing with an instructor.

There's also another option which I've rarely seen used (particularly in the RPG genre). The character doesn't have to level up. What if the character was to start off so powerful and not get any more powerful throughout the game? No XP would be required. This does come with an added difficulty of it's own however in that you need to be more creative to keep the player challenged without giving them oponents that are overly powerful. Often this is done by using equipment in the place of improved stats/skills to a certain degree. As a good example, look at Doom (I know it's an FPS, but it illustrates the point). In Doom, you don't level up. You can't get more powerful (excepting some temporary bonuses), and you can only ever have so much armour. Instead you are given better weapons, which allow you to effectively face tougher opponents in spite of the fact that your character doesn't get any stronger/faster throughout the game.

It would be very interesting to see a well designed game where not only does the character not gain additional power (or only experiences marginal and/or temporary improvements), better weapons/equipment aren't used as a substitute, but more challenging opponents were still provided and able to be defeated. The player would have to be given access to creative solutions, and find new ways of tackling enemies. I see such a game having greater variances in the mechanics of the enemies attacks, rather than simply increasing the power.

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The most important thing about experience points that it allows you to *customize your character*. You have limited points to use in certain well-thought skills that fit your character and playing style. I think the ability to customize your character in different ways in an RPG is important. XP and level advancement isn't just there to increase your HP or improve the amount of damage you do.

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I've thought about the same thing while playing world of warcraft over the last six months. Experience is a way to make a player's character stronger as a result of the amount of time they have spent playing. Experience in an RPG tells absolutely nothing about the skill of the player. Can't beat the Uber Fire Dragon from the Depths of Hell? No problem! Go grind on the Ninja Monkeys with Samurai Swords for a few hours. Then you'll have the power to beat that pesky dragon.

In a perfect world, we wouldn't need experience and levels. As the game is played, the players themselves would get better. They would also accumulate wealth in the form of equipment. Thus they are more powerful characters in the game.

I don't think this system would work, because I haven't met an RPG to date that a player's skill (beyond some minimumly effective benchmark) had much to do with their success in the game.

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There's always the option from adventure games like zelda...You "level up" gain abilities, Hp, or other items up on completion of certain events as opposed to just by fighting monsters over and over...

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Quote:
Original post by tentoid
The most important thing about experience points that it allows you to *customize your character*. You have limited points to use in certain well-thought skills that fit your character and playing style. I think the ability to customize your character in different ways in an RPG is important. XP and level advancement isn't just there to increase your HP or improve the amount of damage you do.

I'm arguing with myself about this - should you gain XP and then at the next level up customise your character by spending the XP on better hand-to-hand combat skills or whatever? Alternatively, should it be your actions (i.e. your role playing) in the game that 'customises' your character - getting involved in lots of hand-to-hand combat improves your skills in this area. I feel that option 2 is more realistic and more in line with what I see role playing should be, but having said that it's always good fun making the choices during the leveling up process.

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Hmm, this post has actually triggered off a bit of an idea. I really appreciate that customisation is an important element in an RPG, but I do also like the idea of a fixed character to reduce the impact of grinding styles of play.

So what about the following:

Allow players to mix and match their stats at pre-designated points in the game (perhaps it could be a service in a town or city). This could be controlled so that players have to lose out in one stat to gain in another so they are always at roughly the same level of power. Then the focus of gameplay would be on fine-tuning yourself to prepare for a specific encounter.

Perhaps you could also limit the system so that fighters cannot instantly convert their character into a spell caster for zero cost.

Basically this idea came about because I found that in games like Morrowind, you were often given the chance to use spells and potions that worked well in certain situations, such as a potion of fire resistance. I found though that I would never use these potions, because your characters growth over time would do much more for you than these potions ever would, so it wasn't worth the hassle of stocking up in the right things when you could just wade in with any old half decent weapon and set of armour. Perhaps with limited character growth but with the option to customise still present, there would be a greater focus on tactical prowess?

Just a thought!

Cheers,

Steve

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Zelda is a classic example of an RPG that does without any experience points. Link travels the lands and collects items and upgrades that make him more powerful, but if you were to try and defeat the end-game enemies right from the start (assuming you do not absolutely require some item) you would definitely be able to. I realize that this is different since the game is a hack and slash type and does not rely heavily on skills, but the overall progression of the character compared to his environment is balanced to not require EXP, but rather items, or simply player skill.

If the decision is that EXP is too important to do without in your game, than trying to alter the way it affects your character could be important. Instead of having plateaus of levels that are reached once predetermined amounds of EXP are gathered, make your 'level' a linear function of what EXP you've gained. Instead of upping hit points (or another stat) by 10 all at once at level time, increase it by EXP/1000. So any amount gained results in an increase in power. This of course doesn't allow for the ever-popular 'ding' factor though, so some players may not appreciate it.

Or perhaps EXP is earned like money, and only benefits your character when you choose to spend it. You can visit skill and weapon trainers (among others) to purchase additional skills and stat boosts with EXP whenever you like, saving it for a big skill, or spending it in small amounts to upgrade strength or intellect or whatever.

There are lots of ways to recycle ideas into different forms regarding EXP. I welcome creative changes to the level system in any game that I play.

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