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TechnoGoth

Increasing returns

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I’m curious if anyone has played a game where the returns and growth rate increase as you “level up” rather than decrease? And did it work? For example if at level 1 you need to kill 100 level 1 enemies to level up, but at level 10 you need to kill 10 level 10 enemies to level up. As opposed to the normal diminishing returns method where you kill 100 at level 1 to level up and then 1000 at level 10 to level up.

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Z Steel soldiers did just that, but as a RTS. Units captured territories and territories had prebuilt factories - the unit production countdown got the lower the more territories a side controlled - so if a side had twice as many areas it produced maybe four times as many units. It worked very well: the game progressed to a very climactic point where both sides were about even and every battle and unit mattered immensely and was over pretty fast after a side secured the advantage.

For RPGs I don't think it makes any difference. The player will spend as much time as you want him playing the game. It doesn't matter that higher levels are cheaper than the lower ones - his position on the character development arc is not measured in level numbers but in time invested.

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Original post by TechnoGoth
I’m curious if anyone has played a game where the returns and growth rate increase as you “level up” rather than decrease? And did it work?


EDIT: I'm assuming you mean "growth rate" that it actually takes less time to level up at higher levels - more rewarding enemies are a non-issue if they also take proportionally longer to kill.
/EDIT

I can't recall any games where growth rate actually increases, although I suppose a few approach a linear progression as monster EXP grows roughly in line with level-up EXP.

I can think of a few reasons why such a growth rate has been avoided in games to date:

1. Realism (making magic/combat skills "easy to learn, hard to master" just seems more realistic to me)

2. Pacing. If using some form of skill tree, it makes sense for lower level players to be quickly able to obtain a few basic spells/abilities to allow some kind of combat strategy. Also a high level player will presumably be much deeper into tactics and strategy, and so it will take them longer to become effective with a new skill and integrate it into their play-style before they need to advance

3. Balance. In an online game, diminishing returns is a great equalizer as it means that high level players are roughly comparable in strength. With the increasing growth rate you suggest, differences in players (e.g. due to some playing 8 hours a day and others 10) will be greatly magnified, making an interesting PvP matchup far less likely

4. Content problems. Current systems prevent players from consuming all of the content in the game too quickly. In effect, they do this by forcing some kind of grind - so it's debatable if this is a good way to solve the problem. Maybe games should have the same amount of content but take less time to complete.

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Why would you do such a thing? I can see the point in strategy games, where it ensures a winning player can actually win, but RPG's are the opposite. With RPGs you expect rapid progress to start, but you end up getting attached to your character(s) and don't really want the game to end.

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My overall thinking was the as the game progresses the player should be taking on progressively more difficult challenges. The greater the challenge, the greater the reward, and the greater the benefit. The game itself is freeform and ends when the player either retires or is killed.

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Original post by TechnoGoth
My overall thinking was the as the game progresses the player should be taking on progressively more difficult challenges. The greater the challenge, the greater the reward, and the greater the benefit. The game itself is freeform and ends when the player either retires or is killed.


If the challenge becomes greater in "real" terms (i.e. even when increased character strength and player skill is taken into account) then presumably the player will be able to complete fewer of these high-level challenges in a given timeframe.

In this case, I don't really see a problem - I quite like the idea of a game where a player can level-up once for each encounter completed, with battles becoming more and more epic as they progress.

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If you move away from XP, you'll find that many other elements of games have been offering increasing rewards, most obviously in terms of money. For instance, in the various Ogre Battle games I might have to do a few missions at the beginning to get enough money to hire and equip a new soldier, but as time goes by and my strength increases, I embark on campaigns with such rich rewards that I can easily recruit a whole battalion after I complete one.

Of course, traditionally you are faced with greater expenses, higher-cost skills or massively inflated XP requirements, which just leads to the fights and rewards being a dimishing return on a rapidly inflating scale, so you get bigger and bigger numbers that represent a smaller and smaller portion of your quota.

So you get the feeling of asymptotically approaching perfection. If rewards were to increase, you'd be on a slippery slope toward apotheosis, which would be awkward. You'd be getting tougher and tougher and tougher so fast that either it would get silly or you'd hit a wall when you max out and it would be weird.

So what would the game turn into? You kill 100 level 1 enemies to get to level 2, and then you kill 90 level 2 enemies, up to 10 level 10 enemies, and then how do you get to level 12? Kill 1 level 11 dragon? What if you kill a bunch of level 10 guys instead? Could a player just live below his means, grinding mobs a level beneath him to level traditionally, or would he have to fight in his bracket to get points?

The only real way I can see this working would be if you did away with XP entirely and awarded levels based on achievements, or even just gave a level up at the end of each "episode" of a linear game, where each section was balanced for the level the player would be at when he finished the last one.

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My thinking was that at start the player has little in the way of skills or resources to work with so their options are limited and the risk and rewards low. As they develop they have more at their disposal and thus are able to take on bigger challenges so naturally the older tasks become more trivial and the rewards become comparatively low so the value in them doing them disappears.

Let’s use just money as an example of rewards:

You start off with nothing so you take on a some level one jobs stealing designer handbags from a department store for a black market shop for $100 a piece.
Once you’ve saved up enough you buy a suit and start working as a tout for low orbit flights scamming tourists for $500 a group. As you “level up” jobs you’d eventually by stealing classified data from mega corps or assassinating executives for millions a job. By then why would you steal a hand bag for a guy in the market when you spend more on lunch then you’d earn working for him for a day?

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The Disgaea games on PS2 are tactical RPGs with increasing growth rate. There are also PSP and PS3 versions but I haven't played those. I assume it'd be the same though.

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Original post by TechnoGoth
By then why would you steal a hand bag for a guy in the market when you spend more on lunch then you’d earn working for him for a day?


I haven't played a game like you described but one quick thing I wanted to say about this is that if it's an option you'll have players doing it, if only to "top off" so they can get that orbital mansion or whatever. I don't think the rules for effort vs. reward apply as heavily as they do in real life (and gamers seem to have a perverse need to violate social conventions in games anyway). So unless you impose some sort of a reputation hit you'll still have deadly cyborg assassins lifting fake Guccis if only so that it offsets some expense in the world (like monorail fare) that reduces the reward they're expecting.

Maybe money's not such a great example because it's so malleable. Maybe upgrade chits, like in System Shock 2, might work better. If you build some sort of sense of being low on the totem pole, having to do scut work just to get a few upgrades, but keep luring players with the ease and glamor of the high life (omitting the dangers, of course) I can see something like this working in that you get less upgrades chits but each one far more valuable than the last.

(Ok, so much for a quick response...)

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Original post by Iron Chef Carnage
So what would the game turn into? You kill 100 level 1 enemies to get to level 2, and then you kill 90 level 2 enemies, up to 10 level 10 enemies, and then how do you get to level 12? Kill 1 level 11 dragon? What if you kill a bunch of level 10 guys instead? Could a player just live below his means, grinding mobs a level beneath him to level traditionally, or would he have to fight in his bracket to get points?

I believe the mathematics of the system the original poster describes would work if the rewards for any particular feat (say, killing a level 10 monster) go down exponentially as the player's level increases, so the player would have to fight at his own level. At level 11, he would kill 1 level 11 enemy to advance, and at level 12, he would kill 1 level 12 enemy to advance another level, plus a portion of the level after that. To balance the combat stats gained, the chance of winning a fight would be determined by the percentage of a monster's level the player is above the monster - meaning the player would be hopelessly outmatched by a monster 125% his own level, for example. This would make the rapid level advancement make mathematical sense, but I think it would be silly considering that a level advancement is supposed to be a big deal in most RPGs, and it would be more difficult for the player to follow the calculations the game makes.

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