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kingy

Experience

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kingy    124
People learn things in real life by doing them and this knowledge becomes experience. RPG's try to reflect this by allowing their heroes and heroines to become better at fighting the more they do it. But I have a more specific question. If you fence, box or spar in real life, or even play strategy games against others, do you learn anything from an opponent that you face who does not challenge you at all?

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ToohrVyk    1595
There are two main ways of improving yourself through experience (as opposed to, say, physical training).

The first way is to make gradual improvements to existing techniques: this involves getting good at doing what you already know how to do. For instance, if you play tennis a lot against a wall using the elementary techniques, you'll get better at using those techniques. Similarly, if you type a lot using a certain technique, then you get better (faster, more accurate) at typing.

The second way is to make discoveries: this involves facing (or watching) your betters. This generally outlines new techniques that you're not familiar with, which can then be improved. For instance, if you see someone smash a tennis ball in a certain way, you can start using that smash as soon as you've trained enough, but you probably won't invent it on your own. The same goes for starting ten-finger typing when you're only used to two-finger typing.

From a mathematical point of view, I'd probably model this with two variables for each skill: the 'theoretical' level and the 'practical' level. Training (just doing the moves, either alone or against weaker opponents) improves the practical level, but cannot exceed the theoretical level. Reading, observing or fighting better opponents improves the theoretical level. And actions use the practical level for resolving, meaning that the player has to go against better opponents, then train on his own, to improve.

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kingy    124
If I understand your post correctly, you seem to be saying that training will improve your skills but not passed your potential; however, testing your skills against others who are better than you will improve that potential. I quite like that idea. So facing off against inferior opponents may have some benefit (as in, it is similar to training) but cannot ultimately make you better than your existing potential, for that, you must face someone new with techniques you have never faced before. Is this an accurate summary of your point of view?

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kingy    124
That's very good. I've never seen experience implemented in this way, in a game and directly relates to combat. Would you mind if I used this idea in my game? Would you like a credit?

I'm also going to use an idea of mine for experience: something I'm calling experience streams. This is where the character gains experience from certain events. For example, for being injured, experience points will flow into his pain threshold stream (the hero becomes better at dealing with pain the more he experiences, or more proficient with fighting in armour the more he does it). This is similar to skills improving with time but more akin to skill sets; fighting in platemail will stream experience into that specific skill but also into fighting in any heavy armour which applies to other forms of restrictive and encumbering armour.

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Tangireon    239
I think you learn more by losing, interestingly enough, or more specifically, going up against tougher-than-you enemies and losing against them. Not only do you witness first hand their strategies, you also get a chance to compare your strategies against them and then afterwards being allowed to assess what went wrong and adapt accordingly. New information is gained.

That's the difference between sports and combat/warfare; in sports you are allowed to live after a loss to gain more information from it to enhance your strategies in the next match. In combat/warfare, when you go up against such tougher-than-you enemies and lose, you get killed. Some games find the middle ground between these two, by punishing you after a loss (when you die you lose a life icon, or you lose some XP and items if in an MMORPG), while allowing you to live afterwards to assess, learn, and adapt. The problem comes when the game has a punishment system that is so severe to which puts off any risk-taking, and thus, any real player-to-game learning or experience expansion. Other games don't punish you at all when you die, using features such as previous save/checkpoint reloading (like in FPS games), or spawn-point birthing (multiplayer fragfests) to which gives the freedom to allow greater risk-taking and experience expansion; you are basically allowed to "play around" with the game and learn/discover whatever you want from it.

The grind in MMORPGs (repeatedly killing weaker-than-you enemies as opposed to trying your hand at tougher-than-you enemies) that is so talked about right now is perhaps considered boring, repetitive, and predictable (the commonly known down-sides to grinding) probably because of the combined factors of a punishment system that disallows a certain range of risk-taking, and the game being primarily about the leveling system in the first place so that there is really nothing for the player (not the player's avatar) to learn much from engaging in challenging situations. However, the balance between risk-taking and challenge-awarding varies from RPG/MMORPG to RPG/MMORPG, as they don't all punish you for taking risks, they just vary in how they balance risk and reward, or how much of a chance a risk can be allowed to go unpunished in the game. By making greater risk/experience-gaining actions result in greater chances of being punished for it, the game offers the player a greater sense of survivability or motivation to be careful as more worth is placed on surviving and staying alive, much like in reality (combat/warfare), while allowing the sporty-gamey aspect of testing, risking, experimenting, and just playing around learning whatever you want to be somewhat in tact, although if a bit restricted. It just depends on what kind of experiences you want your players to have.

So to answer your question, yes, you don't learn much from going against a weaker-than-you enemy, and you learn more from going against a tougher-than-you enemy. But many RPGs and MMORPGs are already modeling this to some extent in that you don't gain as much experience when killing weaker-than-you enemies than you do killing equal-to-you or tougher-than-you enemies. The thing is then how the game handles the punishment of losing your "sports match" against equal-to-you or tougher-than-you enemies (will it motivate your players against taking similar risks in the future?) and whether or not players' strategies had anything to do with that outcome.

[Edited by - Tangireon on August 11, 2008 8:10:43 PM]

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kingy    124
Learning from failures (mistakes) is a fantastic point. I think that's where most of our learning actually comes from. I'm still thinking about how to factor this in to an RPG - rewards for failure instead of success tips this whole thing on its head. There was an interesting thread about an experience mixer on here which aims to reduce the rewards for repeat successes - I think a few of us are starting to question the basic premise of success activating the reward system.

I think we need to separate what the *player* learns from what the *character* learns, unless the player controls every aspect of the character's motions. For instance, a character could learn from missing an opponent to time his strikes better (experience streaming into his accuracy skill slowly when he misses so that it improves over time). The player learning should be viewed as high level strategies (e.g. I'll avoid that kind of monster in future if possible). So experience points should not be viewed as in any way linked to the player's learning about the game, in my view, as the player's learning is an unquantifiable intangible, where the character's learning is eventually qualified to some kind of experience or skill system.

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