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Kest

Hidden stats

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What would it be like to hide all of the skills and stats in a typical stat-heavy RPG? Other than a few exceptions, I'm talking about literally taking the game as-is, and just hiding the stat values. In games that allow the player to spend experience on individual skills, like Fallout, the player would do the same, but without seeing their total value. In games that directly link skills to actions, the game can still make the player aware of the skill's existence, but without showing the value. The exceptions would be skills like lock picking, or skills that directly relate to some object's level. Knowing that your lock picking skill is 50, and that the door in front of you has a lock level of 80, you know not to bother. That would no longer be the case, and I'm not sure how this could best be handled. I'm pretty skeptical when it comes to this sort of thing, but lately, I've been more willing to acknowledge the extra life that can be brought to game characters when it's impossible to know exactly what's going on with them. Showing everything that makes them tick is sort of like revealing the lack of a ghost in the machine. This is obviously not a brand new idea, but it would be great to see thoughts on it. Anything and everything related to hidden stats is welcome.

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Don't be sceptical; showing stats is only one form of giving feedback to the player. Games have been hiding stats forever; think about arcade games, first person shooters, etc, etc. So long as the game can communicate the values in some other way (perhaps inferred, like in Quake, where a rocket clearly does more damage than the machine gun) it will not matter if they are directly given or not.

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Well the thing is, stats give you a good indication of how much you have grown since you last checked them. Now you can't view them, meaning you are not entirely sure if or how much you have grown, all of you progress is vaguely defined at best and open.

Many people find it fun to progess at a certain rate opposed to a certain amount of effort and time put in doing it. They like to the begin and end of their session just to feel satisfied (or not :P).

I really doubt you will improve the gameplay experience by hiding all stats, atleast certainly not for the pure hardcore. Pure casuals might not really mind I think, because they only play the game for the course of actions to take and choose from and what goals to accomplish.

Lastly, I think the definition of skill has always been: The course of chosen actions.
Yes I even mean in a game like World of Warcraft; go the any battleground, its the playing ground of the most narrowminded players, however when you take a good look at them all, you will be able to split the skilled from the rest, albeit not always by their performance. I have seen some players do marveous things even in very low-level gear.

Same goes for PvE, you are always able to pick out what player is skilled and what player is playing the game through a tunnelvision. The difference is huge and cannot be missed, but you simply musn't look directly at performance (dps charts, tps, hps), but the choice of taken actions.

Regards,

Xeile

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Since you're talking about a taking a stat-heavy game as is and removing the stats, I think it's a bad idea. Stat heavy games rely on the fact that users can see the numbers to know they are "getting better". For example, if I dump a bunch of points into some stat and now my accuracy is 2% higher, I will never notice and it will feel like the stats really don't matter.

On the other hand, if you designed a new game around this concept, I think would be interesting. Presenting numbers and calculations back to the end user just isn't very interesting or fun. If you forced yourself as a developer to abandon that method by hiding all stats, I think you could come up with some pretty interesting feedback mechanisms for players.

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One of the big things in WoW that makes people addicted is the constant turnover in gear.

Not being able to compare gear and not being able to theorycraft is really going to hurt your game.

People spend hours practicing spell rotations, weighing crit chance versus hit chance versus weapon dmg versus weapon speed.

If you want an addictive MMO, you need these numbers. If you want people to be able to know whether they can party together you need these numbers. In WoW, again for example, a level 70 player in epic pvp armor is as high above a level 70 in blue pve armor is as high above a level 70 in green pve armor is as high above a level 60. If you want a humongous game, you need a way of judging yourself. If you want a small twenty hour single player RPG, then you can get away with it, but then how would your system be any different than an action adventure game?

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Quote:
Original post by Xeile
Well the thing is, stats give you a good indication of how much you have grown since you last checked them. Now you can't view them, meaning you are not entirely sure if or how much you have grown, all of you progress is vaguely defined at best and open.

That's mainly the reason it seems intriguing to me. You know you're improving, you know where you've improved, and you know how frequently you improve there, but you don't know exactly how good you are beyond the effectiveness of employing the stat. You would literally have to make use of your skills to determine how good they are. And even then, there's room for interpretation.

Quote:
Original post by gxaxhx
Since you're talking about a taking a stat-heavy game as is and removing the stats, I think it's a bad idea. Stat heavy games rely on the fact that users can see the numbers to know they are "getting better". For example, if I dump a bunch of points into some stat and now my accuracy is 2% higher, I will never notice and it will feel like the stats really don't matter.

I'm considering that +2%, if not noticeable in the gameplay, won't really feel like it matters much, even if you can see it.

However, if it's hidden, the player doesn't actually know how many percentages accuracy climbed the last time it was upgraded. It could have been 0.001% or 10%. After aiming and firing weapons for a while, they will begin to see how little or how great the improvement was. And again, there's tons of room for interpretation. Especially if there's some randomness used to implement inaccuracy. The player is forced to feel their way through their abilities.

Quote:
If you forced yourself as a developer to abandon that method by hiding all stats, I think you could come up with some pretty interesting feedback mechanisms for players.

I think the most important feedback is the use of the stats. Strength should make melee attacks hurt more, and prevent heavy items from slowing you down. Agility should reduce the time it takes to perform certain actions. Aiming accuracy should reduce the possible "wander" offset of your ranged weapons. These are things the stats should have been doing in the first place.

Quote:
Original post by rpreller
One of the big things in WoW that makes people addicted is the constant turnover in gear.

Not being able to compare gear and not being able to theorycraft is really going to hurt your game.

I wouldn't want my game to be anything like WoW, but so far, I'm not planning to hide the stats in my game, I'm just exploring the idea. If nothing else, I might hide some of the stats in it. Possibly the eight character attributes, since they evolve so slowly and can not be directly improved. I'm still considering hiding everything. Or creating an alternate play mode where everything is hidden.

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While I agree with not modelling your game on WoW, I think item stats is something that was done well.

And in saying that, ironically, I disagree with the points rpreller made. I think item stats were done well in WoW because they did demonstrate a level of stat hiding.

WoW does not provide a simple mathematical comparison between many stats, especially item stats, and their in-game effects. As an example, a quick google finds this apparent quote from Blizzard on how agility works (may not be current or accurate, but it demonstrates the point):
Quote:
Agility
- Increases Armor Class by 2 for every point of AGI.
- Increases the chance of a critical hit with melee and ranged attacks. The amount of the increase is dependant on both class and level. For most level 60 character classes, approximately 20 points of AGI will increase your critical hit chance by approximately 1%. Rogues require 29 AGI for an additional 1% critical hit chance, and Hunters require 53 AGI for an additional 1% critical hit chance, but both of these classes also gain attack power from agility and the items available to them typically have much higher amounts of AGI.
- Increases the chance to dodge an attack. The amount increased is dependant on both class and level. For most level 60 character classes, approximately 20 points of AGI will increase your chance to dodge by approximately 1%. Rogues only require 14.5 AGI for an additional 1% dodge chance. Hunters require 26.5 AGI for an additional 1% dodge chance, but Hunters typically have a high amount of agility, as well as an Aspect spell that further increases their chance to dodge attacks


This is not explained in-game (to my knowledge), nor are many of the other algorithms that match stats and outcomes.

What WoW actually has is a representation of stats that people feel like they can manipulate, but in reality arent much more specific than a visual indicator would have been unless you invest hours of meta-game research into finding the various formulas. To most of the playerbase, they really only serve as a "better/worse/same" comparison between a stat on 2 different items.


So, I think it becomes a good demonstration that you can hide stats from players without negative impact, unless you specifically want to appeal to the hardcore stat-whore end of the gamer spectrum (in which case it just takes a bit more effort).

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I've always found it hard to care too much about stats unless the mechanics are understood.

As an example, Mass Effect had various items and abilities that would give you bonuses like "+25% Accuracy" or "45% Cooldown Reduction" or "+10% Damage Protection" or "+30% Hardening"

The Accuracy and Cooldown reduction bonuses were self explanatory, and gave good feedback; increasing accuracy makes your targeting circle smaller and decreases aim wobble. Decreasing cooldown makes your abilities recharge faster. Of course, the individual effects were quite small, so you needed a few stacked bonuses to get a really noticeable effect, but it was still intuitive and obvious.

The Hardening bonus was pretty incomprehensible. It sounds like something that would increase protection from damage, but there's already a 'Damage Protection' bonus type. So what does it do? I've no idea, so I basically ignored it, choosing more intuitively useful benefits instead.

So in summary my position is this: If you're giving out stats, give out mechanics as well, otherwise the stats are just meaningless numbers. If you're relying on in game feedback to inform the player of his choices, try and make that feedback consistently strong for all different choices; I suspect that options with poor feedback will tend to get ignored, even if they're really quite useful.

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Quote:
Original post by Sandman
So in summary my position is this: If you're giving out stats, give out mechanics as well, otherwise the stats are just meaningless numbers.

I understand exactly what you're getting at. It's happened to me in countless games. Unless I'm really into a game, I won't even bother to look something up, so if there's no clear mouse-over text on it, I stay in the dark.

However, I don't think you need to display the exact mechanics (like Fallout did) to describe the stat's purpose or effect. You could explain it in real world terms to give the player enough knowledge to invest in it. Not that either is better or worse.

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You might want to look into the Harvest Moon games - they're basically a farm-em-up, but with lots RPG elements (like improved tools, seeds, machinery, animals, soil, etc. etc.). It only ever gives limited feedback, for example there's only two grades of seeds displayed to the user - average and good. But there's a lot of numbers and stats going on under the hood.

Personally I just got frustrated and gave up, as it turns the whole thing into a big guessing game where it takes a lot of gameplay time and dedication to prove or disprove even the simplest of guesses about how things work. But if you look on gamefaqs it's obvious that some people really like the "big guessing game" style of play and spend ages figuring out the exact numerical effects of each different action.

There's probably a much more interesting middle ground to be found somewhere. Perhaps analog gauges to display stats (like colours, icons or adjectives) so you can quickly see how good or bad something is, but you'd actually have to use it for at least a while before you got a feel for *exactly* how good it was compared to other similar items.

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Personally, I think stat-hiding is integral in order to immerse yourself in the game fiction, which is my personal Holy Grail when developing my game. I am developing my own game, Odyssey, built around obscuring and hiding statistics in different fashions.

Many other games have succeeded, either by displaying bars in a progress bar, or displaying emotion/reaction in the virtual avatar. Fable did this to some extent based on how your character ate, how old he got, or how magically attuned he became.

If explored enough (e.g. game mechanics designed to convert statistics to visual cues or some form of implementation), I think a game could really pull off better immersion. Not to mention, pull the carpet out from under the feet of min/maxer power-gamers and have them rethink the way they play games.

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I'm starting to wonder if there's actually any use at all in displaying the numbers. The numbers don't actually represent anything. The only way to establish some meaning with them is to play test. Does a strength of 31 cause the hay-maker to knock out imps? There's only one way to find out. By the time you find out, you don't need the number anymore. Was the number ever actually useful?

Quote:
Original post by DarkHorizon
If explored enough (e.g. game mechanics designed to convert statistics to visual cues or some form of implementation), I think a game could really pull off better immersion. Not to mention, pull the carpet out from under the feet of min/maxer power-gamers and have them rethink the way they play games.

I don't think min/maxers would suffer all that much. The space between current skill values and absolute perfection will be difficult to determine. That should only make their efforts more interesting. A real human in training faces the same issues. There's no line drawn that says "you can't get better than this". At some point, you just have to say "that's enough", and work on another skill. Maybe later, you'll find reasons to push it farther.

If the game alerts the player each time they progress in a skill, or the player directly spends experience to improve it, and players can literally see how their improved skills are changing the game, there's just not much being lost at all.

[Edited by - Kest on October 14, 2008 1:25:26 PM]

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Quote:
Original post by DarkHorizon
Not to mention, pull the carpet out from under the feet of min/maxer power-gamers and have them rethink the way they play games.


Why would you want to do that?

The powerbuilding metagame is pretty much the only competitive element in a single player RPG. Is it worth sacrificing that and all the player competition and mindshare that comes with it?

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