Sign in to follow this  
TechnoGoth

Death based character growth in a survial game

Recommended Posts

I’m working on a mini post apocalyptic survival game designed so that the player will die quickly and often. In fact I plan for it take luck and bit of practice before they manage to survive their first game day. I envision a long play round being 30 minutes to an hour.

Each time the player dies they will start again spending a minute or 2 creating a new character and stating in a new randomly created wasteland.That being said I’m planning on awarding players with character points to be used at character creation time to make better starting characters.

So would people prefer character points to be awarded based on total score in which after the player dies they get a score for that play round and gain extra character points at different milestones. Or would you prefer character points to be achievements based in which every time they player completes an achievement during a play round they are awarded character points.

Score based would mean that player can stick to a single approach and earn extra points at a regular rate.

Achievement based which I personally think would be more fun and forces the player to try all sorts of different things to earn extra character points.

Thoughts?

Also would you buy a premium addon that let you restart again in the same world you died in last time giving you the chance to recover your previous shelter and gear, but with the threat level at half what it was when you died?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
If it's designed that the player dies often and quickly i think i'd be annoyed by the second or third round of spending 2 minutes to create another character. Just a thought, maybe if you give an option whether or not to create a new character and award character points so that a person can improve their character if they want instead of having to create a new one altogether.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
The achievement one would be better in my opinion, so long as i would get some points at the end of the round even if I didn’t manage to do an achievement. Maybe award a minimal number of points depending on how long the player was alive for.

The premium thing would in all honesty annoy me. Although to what extent depends on how much/if I would need to pay for the basic version of the game. Maybe creating a free "demo" version that has randomly generated worlds and if you actually buy the game you could have the option to stay in the current world.

Creating a new character each time I died would probably get annoying in the end. Not to mention i would, at least in the basic game, have very little reason to keep playing beyond collecting more character points. There would be not emotional investment in the character (because it would change every hour or so) and no investment in what i have done in the world. It may be there are other game elements that would engage me and keep me coming back for more but from what you have said I doubt I would play the basic game more than once or twice.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
As everyone said, allocating character points each time you die for a game that lasts for 30 mins is a big chore.

Play some roguelikes, you will get the feel of how short survival games are played.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
why not both?

award some points for achievements, and some points for score. That way you can reward becoming an expert at one playstyle and reward exploring playstyles.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
A 1 - 2 minute wait to play again after I die sounds like a recipe for frustration. If you save the previously made character, you can just
load the save and modify any stats, which should take a few seconds instead.

Accumulable score points would allow progression, even if the player doesn't improves, making the game more casual.
Achievements sound more hardcore, since I can't get a stronger character just for playing time.
So it depends on your target demographic.

I would feel like I'm being cheated just by being offered the addon. This is what I figure the game designer was thinking:
"I'm going to make a game so hard, that people who want to win will have to buy this addon! ~cue evil laugh~"
In this case you better make your game extra fun. But if you have a bunch of addons, and this is just one of them, I might think differently.

Check http://armorgames.com/play/10373/hack-slash-crawl
It's a dungeon-crawl game where you get achievements at the time of your death for future characters. Lots of room for improvement,
gameplay isn't as fast as you want it, but it might help you go in the right direction.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
[quote name='SFCBias' timestamp='1298297337' post='4777019']
If it's designed that the player dies often and quickly i think i'd be annoyed by the second or third round of spending 2 minutes to create another character. Just a thought, maybe if you give an option whether or not to create a new character and award character points so that a person can improve their character if they want instead of having to create a new one altogether.
[/quote]
This was my first thought too - save the character creation and make it optional for the player to modify it or just keep going.

I'd do the scoring this way - Points can only be gained, never lost or used up. You gain points the first time you pass a milestone or accomplish an achievement. Doing the same thing on subsequent plays does not reward points, although it might rewards health packs or money or something useful in-game.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
[quote name='sunandshadow' timestamp='1298324083' post='4777230']
I'd do the scoring this way - Points can only be gained, never lost or used up. You gain points the first time you pass a milestone or accomplish an achievement. Doing the same thing on subsequent plays does not reward points, although it might rewards health packs or money or something useful in-game.
[/quote]
I'm not sure I agree entirely. I think there should be a death penalty of points, but if the player does anything remotely positive it should be outweighed by the points gained. If my player respawns at the beginning and I run outside and die instantly, I think a small point penalty is in order. Especially when you consider that the player will have their points persist through death. Maybe have milestones where once reached they can't go down past that anymore.

As others have said, there is no need to recreate your character each time. Having the same character respawn at the beginning with a better skillset is actually a cool mechanic/idea. The data should already be loaded in the game, so really it's just a matter of removing items if they died and restarting the world. Depending on the scope of your game there should be no more than a few seconds.

I actually like this little nugget of your concept so much that I am coming up with all sorts of interesting ideas right meow.

If you want to recreate the character, you should have an option in the starting area to change your appearance (this could be how you do it the first time you make a character anyway).

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I’d honestly not thought of prepopulating the character creation page with the player last character but it makes perfect sense and is trivial from me to do, so that definitely going in.

I’ll think go with the total score milestones being achievements that way I can unlock character points both ways.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
You said that a long play round would be about 30 minutes. So I estimate that an average play round would be closer to 10 minutes. If 2 of those minutes are character creation, then 20% of my time is character creation.

Now in the game, depending on how many thing I can do, I might spend less than that on actual gaining of score. With these ratios, the game is seeming less like a survival game than character creation game. 20% of the play time would be that. Even a 30 minute play session this still leaves character creation at around 7% of total game time

7% of a game spent doing one thing is a lot of game time.

It is even worse for new players as they might die in just a couple of minutes, which means that the time spent on character creation could top out at 50% or even 75%.

Imagine a game like pac-man (which is a survival game) where every 1 minute out of 5 you have to sit around and not actually be doing the main p-art of the game (eg: some kind of mini-game - that resembles a spread sheet more than a game - that only vaguely connects to the main part of the game).

Now I am not saying that character creation is a bad thing for your game, just think of a way to break up the block of time spent on it, or try to reduce it to around 10% or less for a new player (estimate around 5 to 10 minutes of total play for a new player [i]if they are good[/i]). This means that character creation should take around 30 seconds to do with that kind of death rate.

Another idea is to make character creation part of the play. Have your character develop as you play, so instead of spending 2 minutes building a character, maybe the first 5 minutes of play defines your character. This way, the players don't have to spend explicit time on character creation but can do it in parallel with other gameplay (which is the game play they are expecting from your game).

Or, make death something interesting. There is a pen and paper role,playing game called "Capes" (it is a superhero rpg). IN this the character creation system allows you to design a character in around 1 to 2 minutes (and this is for a game that might last months - which puts the time spent on character creation at a fraction of a percent). However, the defeat mechanic is quite interesting (I use defeat as death in the superhero genera is almost non-existent and so they replicate that in the game). Basically they make it interesting (and even beneficial) to be defeated.

Players earn 3 types of resources in the game: Debt, Story and Inspiration. Debt is accrued for using powers and is placed on drives. They can then stake this debt on various conflicts (it is actually useful to have some debt, but not too much) as they try to resolve conflict.

If they loose a conflict they get double the debt back they staked, but they also get the debt that their opponent staked on that conflict as story tokens. Story tokens allow the player to gain control over certain parts of the story (introducing new characters into a scene, getting more actions in a scene, etc).

When you win a conflict you gain inspiration. This is used to increase the number of dice you can use in a particular conflict.

Now, what is interesting is how Story tokens are earned and spent. Basically, having story tokens allows you to influence the story more by introducing new characters or giving your character(s) more actions during a scene. But, the only way to get these is to loose conflicts.

In your game, this could be what happens when you die. You might gain story token like things that give you the ability to influence the game in some way favourable to you. It might be that certain items like weapons, ammunition and such are easier to find if you spend story tokens, or that you can reduce the enemy population a bit, or allow helper NPCs to come in to help occasionally (however, winning essentially give the computer the equivalent, so that the enemies might become stronger, or equipment is scarcer, etc).

This way the game has an inbuilt difficulty mechanism. The better the player the harder the game, the worse the player the easier the game, but it is not some vague thing in the back ground, but something the player can directly influence (by spending their story token equivalents).

Now, in Capes, these story tokens are created by loosing a conflict where an other player has staked debt and won. So to make this work, you will have to give the player some way of placing a stake in the game (or part of the game). If they loose the conflict, they get story tokens, but they also get back an increase in debt they staked.

This could be through the use of special abilities the characters have, like bullet time, healing, increased damage, etc. As players use these, it increases the debt the character accrues. If they use a lot of these powers during an encounter, this means they have staked a lot of debt in that encounter. The enemies also have this too (such powers might be to spawn more enemies, increase the damage they do, bring out a boss or special enemy, and so forth) and this will allow the computer to place stakes in the encounter.

The debt gains from the use of powers stays on the power, and any debt gained at the end of the encounter goes onto the powers that were used to place the debt in the first place.

If the player survive the encounter then the computer gets back double the debt and earns story tokens equal to what the player staked. If they loose then they get back the debt and earn story tokens.

Each special ability the player has could be given a value as part of character creation (so character creation is about selecting abilities and distributing scores between them). If an ability has more debt on it than its score, then its effectiveness is reduced.

Winning a conflict earns the player the equivalent of inspiration. This could be used to give characters a temporary boost during an encounter in some way (a temporary buff for the character), or allow the use of extra special powers (instant heal, one shot kill, etc). It shouldn't give an overwhelming advantage, but it should give a significant advantage.

This can give your game a real interesting strategy as it might be worth while for a player to loose a conflict so as to get story tokens to spend. If they enter an encounter and not use any powers, they might be able to get away without accruing any debt, but deliberately loose the conflict (which may entail character death) to earn story point awards (but to do that they would have to challenge the AI without using many (if any) special powers.

As for the AI, the actions of the player can be a good guide for the AI to help it make decision. If a player is using a lot of special powers, then the AI will know that the player is putting a lot into winning that conflict. This means that it can use this a gauge for its response. It can then compare this to a set of goals (eg: what resources it wants or debt it want to remove) and make appropriate decision. It can also be used to indicate how much stress the player is under (frequent and fast use of special powers would indicate the player is under a lot of pressure). It can then use this to increase or decrease its level of response to the player to control the level of excitement the game presents (this would be a bit like the AI director in Left 4 Dead).

This system creates a self balancing game where the skill of the player (and the meta game strategy they use to manage their resources) balances the difficulty of the game and gives the player unique experiences tailored to their skill level (however, you can still set the relative skill level needed as the developer). Also, as the AI can have powers that determine the content of encounters, it also makes the game highly dynamic and increases the re playability of it.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

Sign in to follow this