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Ashaman73

Generic or unique recruits ?

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Think about a team based game where you control a team with up to 10 members. Each one has more or less special skills you need to progress in the game. The basic idea is, that you have a pool of available entities where you have to choose your team from. When a team member dies, you can pick an other one from the pool.

The question is, should the pool consists of unique characters (like jagged alliances) or should it contain generic characters (i.e. Jon X, weapon specialist).

At first glance the choice would be unique characters, but it makes one gameplay features really difficult: perma-death of a teammember. I want to deliver a game experience where you don't want to reload. In my opinion a game which delivers perma-death to unique characters will lead to frustration resulting in reloading of an older game state. On the other handwhen you have the option to get an other generic character with similar starting skills and you need to equip and train him again, it would be much easier to accept the perma-death of your previous teammember.

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I would go with "generic" characters but provide the player opportunities to make them unique.

So maybe when I recruit a new team mate I can set him a nickname and give him certain goals/training focus (if that's how your game works). Perhaps each team member will have a combination of personality traits (aggressive, brave, sensible, rookie, etc) that determines how they act in battle. All these things are small things that makes each recruit unique and might cause me to get attached to them. However, you would then have to balance this so that they don't become TOO important to me so I don't reload when they die :rolleyes:

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I think that pretty much no matter what you do people are going to reload.

If you want to make it so people don't reload as much you need other mechanics. Off hand the first things I can think of would be stored experience, where you store experience and then can apply to any character new/old. A very short leveling curve, or "power tier" that is closer to customization rather than leveling. Maybe getting unique resources when a character dies(souls/similar).

Story wise you're also going to want units to be a lot less human. Mechs/demons/whatever.

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Reloading tends to be down to the way the save system works. If it's easy, say a click or two, to reload the game then people will start to do it often, if its hard then like having to exit the game and start it up again people generally not bother. When you including perma death in a game (outside of the player character) i think it's just something you will have to live with.

I would personally go for unique characters and put other systems in place, like Iithos said, to discourage reloading. If your wanting people to not want to reload then i think it comes down to how well the death of a character is handled. If you incorporate a death into the story well and make it somehow meaningful then the player will still want to continue. That way the player doesn't just loose something from a characters death but gains a lot as well.

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I would personally go for unique characters and put other systems in place, like Iithos said, to discourage reloading. If your wanting people to not want to reload then i think it comes down to how well the death of a character is handled. If you incorporate a death into the story well and make it somehow meaningful then the player will still want to continue. That way the player doesn't just loose something from a characters death but gains a lot as well.

The balance of the combat system might make some casualties almost inevitable in most scenarios, and permadeath of unique characters is a matter of who the player prefers to put in danger, not a major failure. If enemies have sufficient firepower and properly concentrate attacks on a single unit, in many cases one or more leading units in an assault will be shot down before enemies are thinned.

If reloading means that with serious tactical effort you might have character B killed instead of character A, with a significant risk of making new mistakes and suffering extra casualties, few players will bother interrupting a battle that's going relatively well only because someone died or to retry a finished scenario that ended with acceptable losses.

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I think that so long as the player has any kind of emotional or mechanical investment in a character, he will likely want to reload an older save to prevent him from dying. The implication of this is that to avoid save-reload, you need to design your characters so that they are uninteresting and/or unlikable, and ensure that the player does not get to invest any game time in developing them - no levelling, equipping, customising etc. Another approach is to ensure that reloading and playing from an older save is such a huge chore that few players can be bothered.

However, this probably is not the game experience you want your players to have.

It may instead be better to have another look at character death, player failure and how you want to incorporate them into your game.
One thought that occurred to me - what if perma-death was a conscious choice rather than a direct result of player failure?
Under normal circumstances, if a character is 'killed', he is not killed, but simply wounded sufficiently badly to be taken out of the fight, and perhaps is rendered crippled or even unusable for a period of time afterwards.
However, each character has a 'heroic last stand' ability which can be activated at any time, even if he is already out of the action. Once activated, he becomes effectively unkillable for a period of time, fighting on even after reaching zero hitpoints, generating massive aggro, and getting significant bonuses to combat which will enable him to at least injure even the toughest monsters. Once the ability wears off though, he will die - heroically, but permanently.

This way, the player gets a degree of choice. If things are looking bad, he can make a tactical decision to suicide one of his guys in such a way as to tip the balance in his favour - and the player also gets to choose who it is. As it is a conscious choice, the player is more likely to accept the result. You can add other little touches to further sweeten the pill - for example, perhaps the heroic death of the character inspires the survivors to greater things - perhaps they get some experience bonus, or perhaps the dead character's equipment gets some kind of bonus attached to it.

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as long as a character's permanent death bothers the player, either through loss of a friend or loss of a resource, there will always be incentive to reload.

If your goal is to have the player not reload the save after each character death, there are a few simple ideas I can think of:

1. Make each team member expendable and easily replaceable, write up a few character archtypes with differing situation dialogue and then have each character randomly assigned one of the archetypes. (Final Fantasy Tactics)

2. Space out save points and keep the game flexible enough to finish without lost team members. Players will then face the choice to either give up progress to keep their characters or start over from the last save point. (Fire Emblem)

3. Remove permanent death. Defeated companions are knocked out and get replaced by your reserves. No major loss, no need to start over. Works well with both Unique and Generic

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So, you created a thread to get feedback on a design issue that pales in comparison to the real issue your project has:


I want to deliver a game experience where you don't want to reload.


I think this is a ridiculous goal.

If your player doesn't want to reload after losing something, then one of the following is true:

1) It didn't have any real value to them in the first place.
2) It takes less effort to acquire a new one than it does to reload the game.

This creates a very ugly dichotomy, either all the 'units' are intrinsically worthless, or you make reloading painful. Can't we just say no to both?

How about this; have a 'casual' mode where players can save/load as much as they like and their score is worth peanuts. Then have a 'normal' mode where the player can only save between missions or whatever. Then create a 'hardcore' mode that has no reloading, only continuing from where you were when you last left the game or your computer crashed.

The titular question; Generic or Unique recruits? depends more on the aesthetic you are going for than your actual design goals. For example:

In most RTS every unit of a particular kind is the same, and none of them have names.
In Cannon Fodder, every unit is the same (they get XP but we can discount that), and every one of them has a different name.

In Jagged Alliance, every unit has a name and unique characteristics.

Now I think about it, I can't think of a game that has unique characters without unique names...

Whether each unit is mechanically unique is a design issue, and whether each one has a unique name is an artistic issue (ie, the feeling you're going for).

So, I put it to you: what are you going for?

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Ever play any Dwarf Fortress? In the Fortress mode, you get waves of immigrants. Many of them are completely freaking worthless, like a cheesemaker or an apprentice glassblower or a miller or something else that either a) anyone in the fort can do just as well, or b) you don't need in your fort. "You make soap, eh? I've got thirty years' worth of soap in here. Welcome to the militia, Recruit. You don't get any armor." Sometimes you get a really good recruit, like a skilled weaponsmith that saves you a ton of money on training, or a terrific brewer. More often, you train up a dude to fill a critical role. A grandmaster mason that can make ornate doors and tables from raw stone, or a legendary armorsmith that imparts a huge bonus to the defenses of your elite warriors, or the elite warriors themselves, who have been training and battling for years and can crush raiding parties that outnumber them four to one. These guys get nicknames, and fancy bedrooms, and opulent burial chambers.

In this way, each character is both anonymous and unique. Sure, they all have names, but they're also conveniently color-coded by their job classes, so when you need a floor smoothed or a wall built, you send eight random white smileys to get it done. On the other hand, if you need a masterwork platinum sarcophagus that menaces with spikes of ruby and is encircled with bands of brass, you use dedicated workshops that are only used by one bodacious guy, and when the vile force of darkness shows up, you hit the button that sends the faceless punks up to absorb arrows and the important bosses downstairs where the canned goods and hookers are kept.

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Ever play any Dwarf Fortress? In the Fortress mode, you get waves of immigrants. Many of them are completely freaking worthless, like a cheesemaker or an apprentice glassblower or a miller or something else that either a) anyone in the fort can do just as well, or b) you don't need in your fort. "You make soap, eh? I've got thirty years' worth of soap in here. Welcome to the militia, Recruit. You don't get any armor." Sometimes you get a really good recruit, like a skilled weaponsmith that saves you a ton of money on training, or a terrific brewer. More often, you train up a dude to fill a critical role. A grandmaster mason that can make ornate doors and tables from raw stone, or a legendary armorsmith that imparts a huge bonus to the defenses of your elite warriors, or the elite warriors themselves, who have been training and battling for years and can crush raiding parties that outnumber them four to one. These guys get nicknames, and fancy bedrooms, and opulent burial chambers.

In this way, each character is both anonymous and unique. Sure, they all have names, but they're also conveniently color-coded by their job classes, so when you need a floor smoothed or a wall built, you send eight random white smileys to get it done. On the other hand, if you need a masterwork platinum sarcophagus that menaces with spikes of ruby and is encircled with bands of brass, you use dedicated workshops that are only used by one bodacious guy, and when the vile force of darkness shows up, you hit the button that sends the faceless punks up to absorb arrows and the important bosses downstairs where the canned goods and hookers are kept.



But specialization in the early part of the game puts a red down arrow blinking on the dwarves. Better make all of them as farmers.

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