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Changing the progression in RPGs

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One of the things about RPGs that I can say confuses me greatly is leveling. Let me explain: I play a lot of RPGs. Most of the time I find myself grinding my levels just to get to the max level. Then when I'm at the max level, I find myself getting bored of the character because there's nothing to do. This slightly confuses me. I don't understand which pathos it is of mine that makes me enjoy the mindless activity which propels me towards a goal, which upon reaching, makes me upset with the game. Is there any way to change this prospect? My suggestion for a method is to focus more on the gameplay of the RPG, instead of on the attributes. Instead of making the player feel like they have to make it to level 7 in order to enter this dungeon, make it so the dungeon uses a different concept than the previous dungeons to advance. And that's not just to say that you need a different object to advance, like Zelda games for instance, but rather there's something you have to master tactically first. Let's construct an example. Say we have a game where you control a team of 3-4 players. You have some of the traditional archetypes in this game, Tankers, DPS, and healers. When you enter the first dungeon, the enemies mostly rush you and try to hurt you as much as they can before dying. Sound familiar? Well, what if the next dungeon, instead of increasing the damage and health on those guys and just doing the same thing, the monsters had tactics. The ranged damage dealers would stay back, and hit whomever their tank was on. That would be an increase in difficulty, which would show the player progress if he was able to beat it, and also provide a decent "fresh breath" as it were into the genre as it stands. To expand, later dungeons would include things like teams with medics, who would rush over to a fallen comrade, rez him, then dash back to cover. Or teams of DPS who would ambush your group and use guerilla tactics to spearate your team and eliminate the most important threats first. One thing to keep in mind, while thinking about the idea is to remember that you and your enemy are no better off damage or health wise than they were in the first dungeon. Instead, a different scheme to push onto the RPG genre is the one introduced by EVE online. EVE uses skills differently than most RPGS, (while some of their skills do increase damage and health in a fashion, I'm talking about the skill based ones) using them to change what one is able to use, and how efficiently they are able to use it. Imagine that instead of getting level 25, and being able to (finally) equip that maul of amazingness that you got 3 levels ago from the uber ogre leader, you can focus training efforts on learning to use melee weapons in more circumstances, and as a result of your study, your character picks up the maul and is able to use it. While some might say that I've just replaced experience grinding with skill grinding, my only thought is that you get rid of all the things that come with defined levels, and replace them with the individual skills. So you aren't just waiting for one second when your character learns new spells, can equip better armor, gets more stat points, and gets an increase in health and mana... (not to mention that in some MMORPGs, you get increasing bonuses against creatures with your level, to the point where you get 1% to miss on an enemy that you had 30+% chance to miss a few levels ago...) Instead, you lose the stratification that this method presents, and you gain a more balanced progression. I suppose at this point, I'm just rambling, and perhaps in a later post I will condense my ideas so that it is easier for others to read, but I just want to leave you with one point - Recent RPGs have taken to having the monsters in outdoor levels "Level" with you. In other words, when you get to level 7, every random encounter you have is level 7 as well. So why even have the levels, if everything is supposed to be the same as you are? Just make everything level 1, and let the skills separate you from your enemies...

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Its really a balance issue.

One approach you might take is to artificially prevent the player from leveling up past a certain level until a certain point in the plot is reached. For example, the player cannot exceed level 10 until the first mini-boss encounter. Excess experience points could be held onto until the encounter is successfully completed, at which point the player will recieve them as a "bonus" on top of the standard experience gained for their victory. Taking this one step further, excess experience itself could be capped to prevent people from level-grinding, defeating that mini-boss, then shooting up 26 levels due to the 45,000 excess EXP they've accrued.

RPGs have done something similar for many years, through a less blatant method. Eventually, the required experience to move to the next level becomes impractical to gain fighting weaker monsters so the player must move on to new lands. One disadvantage of this method is that moving to new lands is not always tied to plot progression, so the player simply hops to the next island insted of moving the plot forward.


Another approach you might take is to set aside a finite amount of experience points that can be gained per monster. It stands to reason that, having fought 35 Purple Blobs, your adventurer has little more to learn about fighting them, and hence his level of experience is not greatly impacted. You could put these encounters on a graduated scale: the first 5 encounters with Purple Blob are worth 5 Exp, the next 5 encounters are worth 4 exp, the next 5 worth 3 Exp, and so on, until any additional encounters are worth no experience. An added benefit to this approach is that you have a good idea what the player's maximum possible level will be, allowing you to tune the game's difficulty at each stage. Another possible advantage is that it encourages the player to seek out and "hunt" each monster to get those last 6 Exp he needs to max his adventurer out before tackling the next boss fight -- kinda like Poke'mon: Gotta Defeat 'em all! You could even have hunting sidequests where the player seeks out new monsters they would not encounter in the course of the plot to gain experience. Imagine a "Hunt the deadly Wumpus" sidequest after overhearing two old-timers talking about the strange creature that attacked them in a cave south of town many years ago.

All this is not to say that the player should *have* to be at the maximum level to expect to be able to defeat the boss, merely that the boss fight should be doable, yet somewhat challenging for a maxed player. A good player should be able to defeat that boss several levels lower.


I'm all for side-quests and open-endedness, but I think the best games gently push you through the plot, rather than simply letting you wander aimlessly. What I'm proposing, in theory, is a means to make that push more firm the longer the player stagnates his own progression.


EDIT: Having actually *read* the majority of your post now I relise I'm not exactly responding to your post as a whole, more to the question in general. At any rate, what I've posted are other possible methods to discourage grinding behavior by making it less usefull as a long-term strategy.

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Most of my opinion on this I posted in this thread, starting at page 4.

Basically, I think that we're going very much in the same direction. There's no reason you should be 100x stronger at the end of a game than you were at the beginning, and the "progression" that you recieve should be widening your strategic possibilities instead of just stat bonuses.

From that thread:

Quote:
I'm not convinced that at the end of the game you should do 100x more damage [with a knife] than you did [with an axe] at the beginning. A "more powerful, but slower claymore" will always be stronger and slower than the "weak, fast rapier".

Buying a new weapon wouldn't be "lets get the weapon with more attack power", instead it's "Ok, so this weapon is fast and weak but has an excellent range, it poisons on hit and has a 10% chance of putting the enemy to sleep". This is pretty cool, and could go a long way toward adding a much needed strategy to your equipment selection.


Quote:
I still enjoy the occasional game of DQ7/8 and FFVI, but I think it's about time we moved on and started embracing more complex interactions in our combat/character development/story. But to [create more strategic gameplay] and remain palatable to the end user, we have to simplify the aspects that are non-intuitive and accentuate the parts that the player can use for strategy.


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...if you can play equally well [from power leveling as you could from low-level + strategy], you are negating any need for a strategy in the game. Why should I worry about proper tactics when I can just hammer on the "attack" button.


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I think the secret to making a "great RPG" is to create a verb set where every single action is useful in a variety of situations and it's up to the player to decide what combinations work best for their own playing style. That's why I think FFXII was such a huge step forward for the genre, there were very few wasted verbs.


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A hard dungeon is a hard dungeon. If I enter that hard dungeon unprepared, I should get my ass handed to me. If I enter that hard dungeon prepared, I should have a reasonable challenge. Likewise, an easy dungeon is an easy dungeon. If I re-enter later in the game, I should feel as if I'm better equipped to deal with the enemies. Not necessarily that I'm killing them in one hit with my eyes closed, but that as long as I'm paying attention I'm not afraid of dying. This is something that the Zelda games do fairly well, especially A Link to the Past.


Edit:

In the end, I think what you're asking for is a game where each dungeon introduces new content, such as enemies and AI actions. But most RPG* designers are too busy creating useless content. That's why we have a hundred pieces of Light Armor and eight different "Fire" spells (that when you acquire a new one, the previous ones are now completely worthless), but enemies with only two AI actions.

It's too easy to forget that you're designing a game when you're working with a genre that "thinks" it is as established as an RPG. Sometime it's hard to throw those arbitrary D&D-inspired rules out the window to create a new experience, but I think that should be the goal.

* Using generally accepted and ridiculously vague "video game genre" definition

[Edited by - JBourrie on May 23, 2007 4:35:30 PM]

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I do care if the growth of the character is by raw power or by strategic possibilities. However I'm not so much inclined toward the second. I prefer the game to let me choose a bit (less versatility, more power).

However. If I find out a game levels enemies with the main character. i.e.: if the same zombie in the same spot will be more powerful as time passes to compensate for character growth, I'll simply not play that game.

The same goes for self-adjusting difficulty by non obvious modifications. I don't care if the game puts twice the opponents, or different ones. That doesn't break my points of reference. What I hate is the level adjustment and the "you now deal 80% damage because you were killing things too fast". I think it's simply lazy design and a lack of interest for balance and proper mechanics in the designers part.

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Design the game so that it also depends on Player skill to advance, rather than solely on Character skill. For instance, the level 20 enemies at the end of the game don't have much in the way of stat bonuses as compared to the level 1 enemies at the start, but have more of the AI at their disposal and are more likely to really screw with the player than to just stand there and get in the way of arrows.

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The first thing that comes to my mind is Chrono Cross. In the game, your levels were "handed" to you at certain plot points. When you defeated a mini-boss, you gained a level. What it did is that at any given time your level was set by the game, maybe possibly allowing you to do some side-quests to gain a few extra levels, but not so much to be overpowering, just enough that people who weren't as good at the game had a way to make their party stronger, so the game was easier on them. The other thing I think of is Oblivion, where the entire world shifts with each of your own levels, thereby making grinding useless, because once you're level 20, you'll *never* fight anything you fought at level 2. A lot of people were angry with both games, though, so I don't know if they're the best ways to do it, and I also like your idea of adding many levels of AI. I'm thinking of doing something like that with my game, starting off each new area with a random number depicting how well the enemies will work together/use better tactics, and raising the random number via a higher cap on it, or just adding 1/2 character level to it. Then take that number and assign it to a certain level of tactics dependant upon what enemies are encountered. eg. if the number is high, the fighters will protect the caster/ranger, but if it is low, they might forget and let someone through.

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A few ideas that I've heard and like.

* Decrease the number of EXP you gain from killing a certain enemy as you kill more of the same type/level.

* Make Level increasement more tactical. Instead of just doing more damage/have more hitpoints, make them able to carry certain weapons with nice side effects (Titan Quest does this well).

* Make respawn times very long, making grinding ineffective.

just my 2 cents

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Cool ideas.

In my opinion, the solution to the "power vs. strategy" debate is simple:

If a tactically thinking player can beat a more powerful but less intelligent player, it is in the interest of the stronger player to learn tactics.

However, this could easily create a situation where players simply max their characters out and learn tactics afterwards and essentially circumvent much of the game.

Why not base character progression and advancement not on time but on some sort of skill based metric?

Take the "style" meter in the Devil May Cry series of games. It's a simple meter: it goes up when you execute attacks based on their damage yet decreases automatically over time. However, if you repeat the same attack without varying, the meter will increase less and less until you eventually cannot increase the value faster than it drains automatically. When you kill an enemy, you are rewarded proportionally to your style meter's ranking.

What if experience worked on a similar system? That player that proves to be a tactical genius will achieve material success faster than Joe Schmo farming mindlessly and mashing buttons.

Of course, once they've both attained the same power, Joe Schmo will be beaten by a tactically "smarter" player, weaker or stronger. Our tactical genius will beat everyone and will waste less time.

It's a self adjusting system: players that like involved game play don't have to put up with grinding, players that like grinding don't have to put up with tactics. However, as this is a game, the tactically better player will win based on those factors.

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I liked the concept of Chrono Cross's stat boosting system, but disliked the execution. Getting all of the stats in one shot after killing the boss defeated the purpose of fighting battles in general, plus the excess of characters made it feel pointless to maintain most of them.

A good system of balance would be to have stats randomly grow (weighted, of course, according to where the player should be at) controlled via an experience cap, with bonus exp awarded for using advanced tactics. Better minded players will abuse the bonuses to get the caps raised faster, but will lack in stats for missing out on half of the battles, were as pure grinders will get their stat bonuses, but raise the caps very slowly.

However, I'm the type who believes in lower-frequency, but longer and harder battles. So, for a player like me, maybe stat bonus could happen during the battle, rather than at the rewards scene afterward.

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Original post by Endemion
This slightly confuses me. I don't understand which pathos it is of mine that makes me enjoy the mindless activity which propels me towards a goal, which upon reaching, makes me upset with the game.

Well, it's not just you; this is one of the primary draws of many types of games, MMORPG's in particular. Human beings just seem to have a built in enjoyment at the feeling that they've accomplished something or gained something. There is just a certain unexplainable thrill that people feel at watching a progress bar fill up and then hit 100%. If you really want to be confused, check out www.progressquest.com and realize that there are people who actually "play" the game religiously.

Aside from just that though, I think there are valid reasons that RPG's follow the path of leveling up the character while leveling up the monsters, whether it's blatant like in Oblivion or obscured as in most other RPG's where you're funneled through level-based areas as you level up. It's because RPG's were never games that were particularly about skill. They are based on pen and paper RPG's, which were primarily vehicles for group storytelling more than they were legitimate games of skill. RPG's, whether video or pen and paper, are at their heart just advanced forms of make-believe. You follow a story of your character starting out weak and doing unexciting things, gradually becoming stronger and facing greater challenges, eventually completing a story arc of some sort. It doesn't really matter if the actual "gameplay" of fighting the dragon king at level 50 is the same as the gameplay of fighting a rat at level 1, because the important part is the ability of the game to portray the character's ascent to power.

So, while in many respects I agree that from a pure gameplay perspective, it would be more interesting to make battles more tactical and not include mathematically pointless increases in numbers on both sides, I don't think it would supply the necessary illusion of a character's increasing power. I think you're looking a little too much from the perspective of a person playing a game of skill, and not as much from the perspective of an actor within a story. From a strategy point of view, it doesn't matter that my character gets bigger and bigger fireball spells if the enemies he's fighting are just going to have higher and higher hitpoints, but from a narrative point of view, I definitely expect my Archmage of Pyromancy to be conjuring up gigantic pillars of flame and destroying enormous, heavily armored creatures.

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Original post by Nytehauq
What if experience worked on a similar system? That player that proves to be a tactical genius will achieve material success faster than Joe Schmo farming mindlessly and mashing buttons.


Oooh, I like that idea!

I also like the core idea of the main post: the player's character gets better because the person playing the game gets better, not because the player's characters numbers get higher.

I've been largely turned off by the RPG genre of late, especially by the glut of MMORPGs. Guild Wars was the only MMORPG that seemed tactically interesting to me, since you had a fixed set of spells you could use at any time, and they'd combine to form lots of different play styles (kind of like putting together a deck of Magic cards).

I understand makeshiftwings's perspective, but many of the RPGs (and almost all of the MMORPGs) I've played had little in the way of story. Too often, you just accept some meaningless quest, grind for 20 minutes, rinse, and repeat. To make the stat-based D&D-style gameplay fulfilling, you need the dynamic questing that D&D provides. In my opinion, Oblivion has done the best job of this in recent memory, although its auto-leveling system was a bit over-zealous and annoying.

I guess I'm rambling a bit, and not contributing much to the discussion, so I'll try to collect my thoughts. I think RPGs should either:
1) get away from the level bars and numbers and focus on deep gameplay (increasing tactical challenges, changing gameplay dynamics over time) -- the Endemion approach
2) provide interesting, dynamic quests and environments with maximum immersion -- the D&D / makeshiftwings approach

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Get away from the numbers....sound's like someone hates math. The numbers aren't the problem...they just have to fit life realistically. I think having 20 health at lvl 1 and 2000 at lvl 30 is dumb, but some people like it. I think it makes more sense for Health to increase maybe from 40-50 at level 1 to 60 or so at the maximum level, as the person's bones become harder, skin tougher, bloodflow better, etc.

The leveling aspect becomes more of a skill based pursuit. Like a lvl 30 knight might just keep charging an intimidated lvl 10 archer who is unable to find the joints in the knight's armor and avoid his expert shielding. This 60 health will last much longer than the soon-to-be-slashed archer's 50 or so. But the same archer at lvl 30 might be able to slip an arrow right under a knight's helm and into his jugular. This might be an example of a "critical strike" perhaps doubling or tripling his arrow damage. The numbers exist because they describe real life objects and actions...at least they should.

I don't like the idea that killing a monster over and over provides no experience. I think this is their prime opportunity to test their skills and finesse. I don't think it should be as much experience as battling well-matched opponents, but it should remain a benefit to the player. Stopping people from grinding levels is easy. Make monsters that are more than a few levels below the character's provide greatly reduced experience...and make the ones they are facing difficult. They will be on their toes at all times (hardcore diablo 2...that adds to the fun). They will be forced to use ingenuity, get whatever equipment they can, learn how to use their spells/skills effectively, and take it slow vs. difficult monsters and STILL get more exp than "farming" weaker ones.

The game i'm developing is a Tactical Fantasy Dueling Squads type game so grinding is impossible. Even if two friends are playing a match vs each other, trying to "skill-up" there will be a cap on the amount of skill points they can get per match, and they are only be added to the skills they use, when they use them. I don't know if your design include respawing or questing but making it harder to level as a character gets higher in level doesn't stop griding. It just makes them grind harder. Take away some of the enormous benefits of being that much higher in level, and place them in tactics, skill placement and use, item distribution and selection, teamplay (if applicable), and people will be PROUD to school a lvl 20 with a lvl 9.

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I also had the same problem with MMORPG's and RPG's in general .
With no story or a totally uninteresting one i found myself grindinfor gold and lvels aswell ..
In my discontempt with most games a year ago i started developing an alternative and am finishing up and balancing out my concept as we speak .

Take a look here
http://www.gamedev.net/community/forums/topic.asp?topic_id=450087

This is one of the may concepts i came up with where your stats are not generated by XP .. which i think is the main problem in combination with leveling . it's just static and unchanging and has allot of restrictions, one of them is that you need to grind to go up and can't go back .

System i made is very different and brings out more of the roleplay in the game than Hack& Slach (is also eliminates hack &Slash as a requirement but makes it optional)
Instead this system works on how you behave.
What actions do you take, how do you talk to people, how do you complete quests and what you do in general in-game.

Every action you take has a reason. the reason had a value and with 25 god's you form your own idiology that fita certain pattern of god's .
(making moral choices codeable )

Though you do not need to mindless grind from field to field, it does however require knowledgeof the setting you play in the game in order to orientate your choices and make the right one . (more puzzling than hacking)
Which in my opinion IS what roleplay is about, not hacking away at the same monster on the same field fora month over and over again.

This also opens up allot more...
For example with thissystem in the link there are way's to(if there are enough players online) delete every single NPC AND MAKE THE WORLD SELFSUSTAINING by the players.

I encountered what yousay in many many RPG's with most irritating on levels being "Lineage 2", "Vanguard", "World of Warcraft" and "Rose".
Guildwars didn't bother that much because it hada great story and balanced it out so you had the right level at the right time in the story .
(yeah i am a story player more than a stats buffer)

Take a look at this system and theworld
more on the world can be found here

www.kingdomsofhayr.org
The forum has most information but may be down today (maintainance)

The only problem is... i need programmers to makethis work..
A sstem like this contains roughly 800%more conditions and integers to be put into code than the usual static system, because it's fully dynamic .
Thats the Con .
The Pro is that the immersion is much much much greater and tendium is almost fully eliminated because you never have to do the same action in a row twice (like grinding where you do the same action over and over again untill you reach epic leven over 6 minths of mindless working stats)



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The problem with starting at 50HP and growing to a maximum of 70HP is that it doesn't offer much in the way of long term durability. Either the player has to carry a lot of curative items and spells with him, or the HP has to recover pretty fast. In terms of level design, the HP limit just sets how long the level can be. Under a mathematical model, you'd take the average damage the player would take in any fight, and the maximum number of curative items he can carry (assuming effective usage) and that would translate into how many fights the player could experience between the start and end points of the level.

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Original post by Inmate2993
The problem with starting at 50HP and growing to a maximum of 70HP is that it doesn't offer much in the way of long term durability. Either the player has to carry a lot of curative items and spells with him, or the HP has to recover pretty fast.[...]
Or fights could just be dangerous so that it's generally a bad idea to go around fighting all the time. It's perfectly possible to have an RPG without magic (healing or ressurection) with low hit point totals and high damage values and still have a fun game.

If you must have healing, allow players to rest at the hospital where they recover a few HP each day (obviously with a choice to wait however many days needed to fully heal). That gives a new goal to strive for - complete the game in the least amount of in-game time by doing well in fights.

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Hello all,

I thought this was a good topic for a first post. It seems everyone in this thread has the same desire to get back to the roots of what made you play computer rpgs in the first place. Fun and adventure. Sadly, modern rpgs suck out all the fun in order to make the adventure more interesting. And in the course of adventuring the player realizes that they need to get their character's numbers to a certain point so that they can get on with the adventure.

Old school rpgs that i remember, like any of the early FF games or Dragon quest and the like, would lead you down a path of random battles and location hunting so that by the time you got to the end you could pretty much handle what was there. You'd get a little more plot and a couple of hints to point you in the right direction and then do it again. Gradually revealing more and more story and better loot. And then you realized that you could just hang out in the forest next to town till you got all of your characters doing one hit kills and then the rest of the game was a cake walk. Thats why so many game developers have tried to use balancing game mechanics and such in their rpgs. So couldn't cheat and dissapoint yourself. That's how it all started. You beat their system and they try and make one you can't work around. It needs to fair for some twisted reason even though nothing in the real world is ever really fair.

So now you have to hang out in the forest next to town and grind away till you peak cause thats what you would do anyways if the game wasn't balanced throughout. You can't help it. Finding loopholes is a form of strategy in itself when applied to completing a game.

I can think of two games that really got close to the mark when it came to character advancement. Fallout (1 & 2 pretty much the same game) and Elder Scrolls 3. Fallout to me was brilliant in the way that your characters defining stats were set in the beginning with very few ways to improve them. As you leveled, with your stats defining how much you gained from a level, you improved some of your characters skills which ultimately determined how well your character would perform in certain situations. I thought this approach to RPG stat building was perfect but in hindsight realize that is worked mostly because of the turn based gameplay. I found Fallout Tactics kinda of lacking because of that. Elder Scrolls 3 almost had it right. In real life your successes and failures are determined by environmental conditions (things outside your control) and your own personal skills. All day every day. If you can't cook you go out to eat or hope you live with someone who can cook. Just like in a good rpg, everyone knows what types of roles they can do or would like to do. The only problem with ES3 was the same as in early rpgs, once you figured out the loophole and realized that if you jumped everywhere you went eventually you would jump houses in a single bound and climb the most daunting moutains with ease. And the same method applied to damn near everything in the game. I haven't played and of Oblivion so I'm not sure how they addressed that issue.

However, to finally make a point, I have played a game that seems to have addressed the progression of a character in just the right way. It's a game called Linley's Dungeon Crawl. www.dungeoncrawl.org In this game, you gain experience through whacking monsters. Once you get enough you level up and gain a small stat increase based on your class and sometimes a new ability depending on your race. And in addition you skill up, ala Morrow Wind, by actually using a skill. The crucial difference however is that in this game you use the experience you've gained to raise your skills. Say you whack a monster and get 5 xp. That xp goes towards your level and it also goes into a pool which gets used up when you use one of your skills. Once you've used it up raising a skill and you have no more xp in your pool your skills rise abysmally slow. The only way to add more xp to the pool is to defeat something. The game allows you to focus your attention towards certain skills so you don't spend your xp on one you don't use often. It is to me the best of both worlds. The only downside to the game is graphics, because its a rogue like game, but the principles behind the gameplay are beyond what most game developers have tried to employ in more visually pleasing rpgs.

Endemion is totally right in the respect that making the ultimate character seems to take all of the challenge out of a game and make it boring. And what would be the point of playing a game where you only get to be really bad ass in the end? Everyone should take a look at dungeoncrawl and see how it can be done.

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Original post by Extrarius
Quote:
Original post by Inmate2993
The problem with starting at 50HP and growing to a maximum of 70HP is that it doesn't offer much in the way of long term durability. Either the player has to carry a lot of curative items and spells with him, or the HP has to recover pretty fast.[...]
Or fights could just be dangerous so that it's generally a bad idea to go around fighting all the time. It's perfectly possible to have an RPG without magic (healing or ressurection) with low hit point totals and high damage values and still have a fun game.

If you must have healing, allow players to rest at the hospital where they recover a few HP each day (obviously with a choice to wait however many days needed to fully heal). That gives a new goal to strive for - complete the game in the least amount of in-game time by doing well in fights.


I'm kind of making the assumption that this conversation is about a video game in the works, so, I also have to make the assumption that fighting is all there is to do in the game. Breaking that assumption would need a new thread, "Other things to do in RPGs." However, the rationing of HP isn't a bad idea actually, they did something like that in Breath Of Fire: Dragon Quarter. Also, I seem to remember that HP grew from a low of 50 to a high in the 300s.

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Original post by Endemion
I don't understand which pathos it is of mine that makes me enjoy the mindless activity which propels me towards a goal, which upon reaching, makes me upset with the game.


You may not understand it, but it is there. Humans seem to like seeing discrete and measurable amounts of achievement.

Quote:
When you enter the first dungeon, the enemies mostly rush you and try to hurt you as much as they can before dying. Sound familiar? Well, what if the next dungeon, instead of increasing the damage and health on those guys and just doing the same thing, the monsters had tactics.


If we're talking online games, then the AI requirements might be prohibitive, if you actually wanted the tactics to be effective. Even in offline games, it's still non-trivial to implement.

Also, it's hard to balance. With a statistical system, balance is actually quite trivial as a designer. But add in tactics and emergent behaviour and it becomes much less predictable. You might find that supposedly 'hard' tactics turn out to be easy, or that some tactics are effective against most players but too easy or too hard against others. These aren't insurmountable problems, but compared to merely increasing a few stats, they're hard work.

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While some might say that I've just replaced experience grinding with skill grinding, my only thought is that you get rid of all the things that come with defined levels, and replace them with the individual skills. So you aren't just waiting for one second when your character learns new spells, can equip better armor, gets more stat points, and gets an increase in health and mana... (not to mention that in some MMORPGs, you get increasing bonuses against creatures with your level, to the point where you get 1% to miss on an enemy that you had 30+% chance to miss a few levels ago...) Instead, you lose the stratification that this method presents, and you gain a more balanced progression.


But is this any better? Ultimately it's the same system, because when you set aside the numerical values, it's still about how quickly you can take an opponent's health down to zero while avoiding them doing the same to you. In both systems, you learn stuff, which makes you more effective. Your opponents can then learn stuff, which makes you less effective. The fundamental balance is going to be the same. But you no longer have the pleasure of reaching those level goals, and the game is harder to balance as a designer.

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Recent RPGs have taken to having the monsters in outdoor levels "Level" with you. In other words, when you get to level 7, every random encounter you have is level 7 as well. So why even have the levels, if everything is supposed to be the same as you are? Just make everything level 1, and let the skills separate you from your enemies...


Yes, the system in these RPGs is somewhat dumb, if you ask me. However, they are still keeping the idea of the level at least in part because of the enjoyment you get from reaching the next discrete stage.

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Vampire the Masquarede: Bloodlines had a nice leveling system. In this system world of darkness) you do not gain exp. from killing enemies, you get exp from completing quests and in some cases more exp by completing quests in certain ways. I liked the character improvement in that game. But then again, there was nothing to grind in the game.

I also believe that it depends on the person who's playing the game, In Diablo 2
I don't grind, I follow the story but my girlfriend grinds for hours before advancing the plot.

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Original post by Inmate2993
The problem with starting at 50HP and growing to a maximum of 70HP is that it doesn't offer much in the way of long term durability. Either the player has to carry a lot of curative items and spells with him, or the HP has to recover pretty fast. In terms of level design, the HP limit just sets how long the level can be. Under a mathematical model, you'd take the average damage the player would take in any fight, and the maximum number of curative items he can carry (assuming effective usage) and that would translate into how many fights the player could experience between the start and end points of the level.


Or...don't get hit. The HP limit is what makes you human. If you want to be an ice boar with 25555 hitpoints, go ahead and make it so, but humans can only take a certain amount of punishment. When you introduce magic and armor, that's a different story. Have a magic spell that heals wounds quickly, or leather armor underneath your breastplate that reduces damage by another 20%, AND makes you harder to hit...fine. But any increase in hitpoints greater than 50-100% for a human is just absurd, unless the person was nearly dead to begin with.

It also depends on the game type. For dungeon/level type games you would have to last a certain amount of time OR turn around and go back. That's how it goes. If your about to bleed to death, your not gonna plow forward into more difficult and fierce monsters, your going to hurry back to town and to a hospital/inn. Healing potions is again bringing in the magic aspect which is ok, but who's to say how big healing potions have to be??? Perhaps they are as small as perfume samples in those little tubes, and you can carry 50 on your belt??? Maybe it only takes one drop to heal a wound??? You can alter the game however you want as long as you have it make sense to the player.

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I've been reading this and have been trying to think about this for a long time. I like the idea of gaining HP at a slow rate with a max around 3 to 4 times as many HP as you start out with. Take Average Joe, versus UFC champion. He can take a lot more punches then I can.

I've never understood though how a person with no armor could take multiple slashes from a heavy axe and survive? I realize that realism can ultimately ruin "fun" but armor and magic can play a huge roll. Money in a game could be a form of leveling, as you progress through the ranks you get more notoriety, find bigger people to work for and gain more money, giving you more resources to buy that magic armor that protects you from Arrows, magic, and the like. I personally don't care if someone level 1 has a friend that is level 100000 that hooks him up with anything and everything. I realize this brings a certain level of unbalance. But make it so that character would have to be seriously babysat. If you die you have to get all your stuff back, or magic upgrades would need to be used constantly in order for that newbie with all the nice armor to move fast enough in that clunky stuff in order to fight anything, or AI smart enough to disarm or damage armor if it is obvious the player doesn't know what he is doing.

My idea of a game would be using the Wii controllers, if not next gen of that, there an actual players ability of sword play and magic gestures or aim with an arrow could have the biggest factor of tactics. Some level of physics and collision detection would be involved, perhaps making it unrealistic for MMORPGs. But I think a human fighting a giant boar would take more than just a well equiped level 1. You need to be able to dodge, attack, defend. Just hitting "use attack 1" button over and over seems mindless to me, plus scripts can be implemented too easily. Plus I liked how in PnP D&D if you killed say eight things, that meant you could be leveling up if you had enough skill, luck, and the right circumstances to survive. This would make tactics and group tactics essenstial. Say someone has good enough armor to take on that green giant. Sure he can take a hit but thats about all he can do while being bashed around aimlessly. He would have to play physical blocker for all the guys shooting arrows and magic at him. I think physics are key. If you put a body or a tree or something between you and the enemy, they shouldn't be able to get to you unless they physically can shoot past you. Think end level flying dragons. They would be able to pick people off because they would have the defense to take beating, but also could pick off the people in the back instead of being pinned up by the tank.

Ok I'm ranting but I think there is a lot more that could be done instead of just leveling. I think the system needs to be completey reworked.

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Original post by Dwiff
I've been reading this and have been trying to think about this for a long time. I like the idea of gaining HP at a slow rate with a max around 3 to 4 times as many HP as you start out with. Take Average Joe, versus UFC champion. He can take a lot more punches then I can.

I've never understood though how a person with no armor could take multiple slashes from a heavy axe and survive? I realize that realism can ultimately ruin "fun" but armor and magic can play a huge roll.

...

Think end level flying dragons. They would be able to pick people off because they would have the defense to take beating, but also could pick off the people in the back instead of being pinned up by the tank.

Ok I'm ranting but I think there is a lot more that could be done instead of just leveling. I think the system needs to be completey reworked.


Ok so i'm in good shape so i figured maybe UFC fighters aren't 4 times as tough as me. I figure a squire in training would at least be able to take a few hits....lol. The fact is that a person with no armor CAN'T take multiple hits from a heavy axe....unless he's not a person, or maybe he's magically enhanced. The realm of magic(especially magic armors) permits anything so the "fun" isn't ruined by realistic hitpoints. Perhaps you have a ring that puts a barrier over your top layer of skin, stopping all piercing and stabbing, only allowing pressure and blunt trauma....infinite possiblities.

Also, in regard to dragons, you had better have some magic stuff on...No matter how skilled you are, your kinda screwed.

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Original post by CalculonsProcessor
Ok so i'm in good shape so i figured maybe UFC fighters aren't 4 times as tough as me. I figure a squire in training would at least be able to take a few hits....lol. The fact is that a person with no armor CAN'T take multiple hits from a heavy axe....unless he's not a person, or maybe he's magically enhanced. The realm of magic(especially magic armors) permits anything so the "fun" isn't ruined by realistic hitpoints. Perhaps you have a ring that puts a barrier over your top layer of skin, stopping all piercing and stabbing, only allowing pressure and blunt trauma....infinite possiblities.

Also, in regard to dragons, you had better have some magic stuff on...No matter how skilled you are, your kinda screwed.


Right we are all at different levels, and that might make the difference of starting professions and where a person starts out in hit points and such. I wouldn't expect to take a dragon or even a better equiped human without magic, I think that is essential. I'm just saying its a combination of things, players skill, characters skills and attributes, equipment, and the like. These are all factors present in current games, but I think a shift needs to be made more towards player skills. Right now you have games like WoW, where eq and level makes a character. Games like SWG (pre-giagantic nerf) where items (foods, drinks, and quality level of those and equipment) were the biggest factor. I haven't played everything out there, but I think a players skill such as like in a FPS game are important. The ability to aim your bow or magic arrow at the hole in an enemies armor while physically dodging projectiles and attacks.

Another idea I had was a way to increase HP or toughness. Toughness could increase by damage taken. Instead of HP going up because you hit level whatever your HP goes up because you have been beaten half to death a thousand times, managed to survive each time, and kept going. SWG did something like this where a fighter wouldn't get as much XP if a healer just sat there keeping him at full strength the whole time, instead the healer got the bulk of the XP (and rightfully). And if you die and need resurrected or spirit healed or what have you then when die you lose that HP bonus as level, or a portion. So if your a level 1 fighter wearing the latest and greateset armor and just hacked and slashed your way through enemies you wouldn't get the benifets of struggling your way through by not getting the HP bonus. Also if you beat down a ogre with a stick, and survive you would get stronger one would thing, at least stronger then using that +1000 sword of might that your friend gave you that kills everything in one it. I think this would give the game some balance. Enemies would need to be strong enought to actually kill you if you just tried farming using a stick, or if they realize they can't damage you, because of your ring of invulernability, they could run away or something preventing macro farmers. Just ideas.

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Dwiff, you could add requirements for the godly weapons; or depending on the story, you might disallow trading godly items to people in the beginning. If you don't want to do levels, perhaps you might have to defeat a certain boss before you're allowed to use such a holy treasure of a weapon. You must prove yourself not to be a noob before you can wield the sword of a thousand truths.

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I understand the idea of levels for weapons. I think for standard, non-magical, weapons it makes no sense to have such limitations. If Joe picks up a bastard sword and Mike picks up a bastard sword but joe is level 5 and Mike is level 1 the only difference I see is physical attributes and skill. Magic weapons on the other hand you might need to beat that boss, earn the mark of the Elves or something to be able to use the Dagger of the Elves. This makes sense to me because well we can't explain magic. But then a character just goes around earning these marks/certifications what have you. I just think there is more innovative ways a person could be limited than just levels. Originally they were talking about in this post the mundaness that comes with standard RPGs, the fact that your playing a role of a character and this is your story. Levels are used to indicate a sense of advancement, and standard use of measurement of a characters ability. My friends used to even create characters based on themselves using D&D tables (needless to say the "average" person is very lacking when it comes to D&D). IRL what seperates average white belt Joe from black belt third degree Joe? Physical skill, Black belt joe isn't nessecarily a lot stronger or can take a staff to the head better than white belt Joe, but he will be much better at dodging, countering, attack speed, ability to wield different weapons with a level of proficiency and the like. Now how do we translate that into Game speak? Characters get faster, have more of a variety of skills to counteract different scenarios, know more people and places to get a better variety of things, have accumilated more wealth, have friends that are equally better equiped and highly skilled. This makes a lot more sense to me then level 1 and level 60, were level 1 will hit for 50 and level 60 for 6000.

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