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Hack-n-slash economics

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I'm thinking of a real-time hack-n-slash RPG (think loosely Diablo 2 style) in which each monster the player killed was one less in the population of that sort of monster, and each monster village the player destroyed was one more place for humans to settle and grow stronger, and one less place for the monsters to produce offspring / weapons / train soldiers / etc. Monsters can take back human settlements too if they are strong enough. Of course, the weaker monsters and monster settlements would need to be near the human's starting location, because the player starts at a low level and would need to fight weaker monsters at first. As time goes on the "monster empire" places more emphasis on the player as a central threat to their safety, sending more and stronger forces to take his home city or defend cities he might attack. As the human empire gets stronger, it becomes richer, better fortified, more populated (and so better defenses), and possibly even better technology or magic. However, this is entirely necessary, because the other empire starts the game with a high growth rate (lots of production / conquering other places). The point would be that every single action you do against the enemy would have its effect on the economics of the game. One goblin blacksmith destroyed is one less goblin sword produced for the enemy empire per (unit of time). One orc village of population 15 destroyed is 1.5 less orcs created for the enemy empire per (unit of time). Even the inner reaches of the "monster empire" are always growing in real time throughout the game, except perhaps when shopping, or the player is sorting through inventory, as the player shouldn't be penalized for taking extra time doing certain organizational things. I like this idea because I like the idea that when you destroy something in the game it actually has an economic effect on your enemy, you can feel what you are doing is affecting the game in a big way. Take out all the ogre villages, and you won't have to worry about those coming back in significant numbers for a while. Taking out your first village of a monster you really hate would feel great. The biggest problem I see with this sort of thing is that it has the potential to quickly become imbalanced either way - you would have to have the monster growth curve closely match the player's growth curve, and if one gets ahead of the other, the distance between the two would accelerate as they got further away. If you just artificially raise the monster curve (give them extra units or villages) if the player starts to get ahead, then the player's success in the past has hurt him - we can't do this if we want to follow our "hack-n-slash economics". Thus, the game will eventually become imbalanced to the point that the player would either die surrounded by hordes of monsters much stronger than himself, or the player would find the "monster empire" was no longer a challenge after a certain point, and he could just ease his way through and kill the "monster emperor", allowing peace to reign at last (winning the game). One potential solution to this is to have the game be episodic, like Diablo 2. That is, one would start a game with a character saved from previous games, and the game would build up the monster empire's size from the selected difficulty level for this session, and the character's strength level (as estimated by experience level and an equipment value evaluator function). If the game gets too imbalanced in either direction, the player can always start afresh with the same character (including experience and equipment gained) in another randomly generated world. What do people think of this idea? Is making it "episodic" necessary, or is another solution better? I don't play any MMORPG's, but my first thought about the idea is that it must be similar to raids / wars in MMORPG's. Has any game done something like this before? Did it turn out to be fun or frustrating?

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Shadowbane does this in a way because if you destroy an enemy clan's merchant buildings and trainers they cant produce good gear which in turn means they arent equipped with the best stuff for battle.

There isnt a HUGE effect right away since it can be bought from other places, but it does have a tangible effect. And with politics it can drive a whole guild under.

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I feel it's a common element in strategy games - take out an enemy resource collection site, or a factory, or (whatever), and you affect their progress through the game. But sometimes destroying their barracks doesn't do much because they weren't building more infantry at the moment anyways (and they can quickly have a villager build 2 more), or taking out their woodchopper's depot didn't affect them because they have 80,000 lumber already anyways.

I'm hoping to have it so that anything you destroy of the enemy's affects their "economy", at least a bit. That way wreaking havoc on the enemy's territory isn't just to make your character more powerful, it checks the growth of your home's primary threat. You might find yourself making calculated strikes into enemy territory to destroy something productive to ensure your home's future safety. You would come up with missions like this yourself, because it would be necessary to stay alive.

And it would be done from a real-time action-RPG perspective. Your actions would be what tips the balance of the struggle.

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I guess Im fuzzy on what you mean.

Is there a different category of item that you want to destroy/steal/collect other than factories and production plants that would make this gameplay different?

I guess Im not understanding the different ways/items to be taken out.

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Guest Anonymous Poster
I always thought Dune 2 had a pretty good implementation of this kind of thing even though it is an RTS game. The later levels introduced more imbalance in favor of the enemy thus making it more and more challenging for the player. Even on the last level, when the enemy forces could easily overwhelm you, there was always a chance you good win with some good strategies, or at least be convinvced to keep playing until you had the right strategy.

Mr. Creamy



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To be honest, I'm still hashing out what the economy would be like, but I'm shooting for simple. When I talked of taking out the woodcutter's building in my last post, it was just an analogy to a generic RTS that displays this sort of behavior (in this case, the Age of Empires / Empire Earth / Rise of Nations games are what I had in mind).

Dune 2 is a good example of a classic RTS, and I think all the RTS's have this too. I still remember laughing in glee when I was able to destroy any kind of enemy factory in Dune 2 (in the version I had, the enemy AI never built back destroyed buildings). Destroying a building like this had a huge effect on the game, and is similar to what I'm talking about, but I'm talking on a continuous scale - each extra goblin you kill lowers their growth rate by just a bit, etc.

In my economy as it stands now, new "monsters" are spawned at a rate directly correlated with the population of each type of monster existing in the world. The monsters would probably have different things they would build for each species, that increase their capabilities. For example, goblins might dig caves which increase their breeding rate, whereas orcs might build fortresses, barracks, blacksmiths, etc, all of which would directly or indirectly increase the orc army's strength and/or growth rate. The monsters wouldn't be completely independent, orc patrols might help defend the goblin's caves, and a larger number of goblins might be staying in the orc's base.

I have a lot of details on the economy to work out, it might be completely revamped and thrown into a different setting. Right now I'm just concerned with whether this basic idea is a decent one. Most action RPG's just have certain level enemies in each area, and the player can move to whatever area they feel comfortable fighting in. When they're ready / strong enough for the next, they move on to the next. Instead of this, the enemy forces' strength at any time in my game would be precisely a function of their initial status, and events that have happened throughout the game (enemy growth and losses). This means the things the player does now are shaping the world for the future, and the player is continually under pressure to do as much damage to the enemy as they can with their strength, to slow the enemies' progress from an otherwise exponential growth rate.

The difficulty will be in tweaking the game's difficulty just right to keep the player on their toes, to keep a challenging early, mid, and late game, and allow the player a significant chance of losing. Anyone have any other games that do something like this (from an RPG perspective)? Is it fun? Is it too difficult to balance? Am I forgetting something?

Thanks for your responses so far, I appreciate anyone's thoughts on the idea!

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