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How to put skill on the player and less on the character? (RPG/Roguelike)

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How would you go about putting skill in the hands of the player rather than the character in a RPG/Roguelike?

The big overview of the game I have in progress is that it's a turn based RPG, little to no story and very heavy on tactics. It's top down, tile based, quite reminiscent of rogue in some ways (except bad graphics rather than ascii).

I've went pretty heavy on sight/sound mechanics for both player and enemies alike. These mechanics allow for some very nice combat styles with the fact that being turn based and using action points, you can play vastly different than a friend. When I say action points, I mean depending on the gear you have, you might move 3 times, attack once, and move another 2 times in the same turn.

The reason I'm going on about this is that I'm trying quite hard to add multiple levels of depth to combat and exploration to provide as many options and styles for players so that I can hopefully stray a ways from the traditional stat based character development. I love so many elements of RPGS, but I absolutely abhor the idea of having the skill of a combat scenario be based on luck or the amount of time a player has invested in a character.

I'm hoping to have my game more about positioning, relying on your senses, paying close attention to your surroundings, etc and much less about picking up the Battleaxe of Unending Bonuses. I do understand having a character improving their ability to swing a sword after swinging it a thousand times and all, but I don't see how the scale bends the way it does in some games. Sneezing at sewer rats you fought early in the game shouldn't be enough to slay them now simply because you've killed a hundred of them.

So, my question stands, how would you go about putting skill more into the hands of the player rather than into the character's? How do I have a point to a game without character progression or heavy storyline?

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But what if the player is not so skilled/smart or simply very young? He won't be able to play the game because it would be too hard. In a normal RPG if player's skills are poor he just grind killing rats or goblins longer then level up and he can beat the stronger enemies without using tactics his brain is uncapable of inventing. That's one of the strongest points of RPGs.

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But what if the player is not so skilled/smart or simply very young? He won't be able to play the game because it would be too hard. In a normal RPG if player's skills are poor he just grind killing rats or goblins longer then level up and he can beat the stronger enemies without using tactics his brain is uncapable of inventing. That's one of the strongest points of RPGs.


This is just meant to be a hobby game, not trying to sell it or similar. The only real market for this exact game is myself, my wife, and a few friends.
Take away the label of RPG if that makes it easier for you to think about.

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I do understand having a character improving their ability to swing a sword after swinging it a thousand times and all, but I don't see how the scale bends the way it does in some games. Sneezing at sewer rats you fought early in the game shouldn't be enough to slay them now simply because you've killed a hundred of them.

So, low-level opponents should have a roughly equal chance of winning against high-level opponents (be they players or NPCs) via tactics provided by your sight-and-sound mechanics. By sight-and-sound in a roguelike, do you basically mean that some textual/graphical hints are displayed on the screen to show you what you could do to make, say, a good swing at your opponent?

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[quote name='Mythics' timestamp='1326740918' post='4903321']
I do understand having a character improving their ability to swing a sword after swinging it a thousand times and all, but I don't see how the scale bends the way it does in some games. Sneezing at sewer rats you fought early in the game shouldn't be enough to slay them now simply because you've killed a hundred of them.

So, low-level opponents should have a roughly equal chance of winning against high-level opponents (be they players or NPCs) via tactics provided by your sight-and-sound mechanics. By sight-and-sound in a roguelike, do you basically mean that some textual/graphical hints are displayed on the screen to show you what you could do to make, say, a good swing at your opponent?
[/quote]
I don't understand his question at all. Player skill in a roguelike? I always thought RPGs were supposed to be about role playing your character. That's why they use character skills.
I guess that's why he said don't think of it like an rpg.
Does he want an action adventure game?

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I'm hoping to have my game more about positioning, relying on your senses, paying close attention to your surroundings, etc and much less about picking up the Battleaxe of Unending Bonuses.

I think you have only the option to add some tactical combat simulation. This could give the player the chance to defeat an enemy or a group of enemies, otherwise too powerful for the character, by tactical finesse. It is like chess, roguelikes like tome4 are going in this direction.

Otherwise the simple representation and turn base nature of a roguelike game are restricting the usage of certain human skills like reflex, fast movement, sound awareness etc. Adding sound to a game with a top down view will not help you to get a better sense of the scene, thought it could help to improve immersion. Whenever I play a fps game like BF3, sound helps a lot, but only because of the first person perspective which is mandatory to give you an immediate hint of events in your direct surrounding.

Awareness and fast reaction, which are important for many action games, not neccessarly only for FPS games, need atleast a realtime environment. You need to be aware of a certain situation, do a fast decision and need to execute this decision in a short period of time. This is not really useful in a turn based game.

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I’ve been toying with the idea of a pocket adventurer style game. Where you don’t control the hero but instead choose their equipment, load them up with tactics and skills and then send them into a dungeon to see how far they can make it.

That would be one way of achieving what you want. In that case the player skill is what is most important during the planning phase, which determines survivability.

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Sounds like I might need to go into more detail about what I already have accomplished, so here goes a lengthy post including replies.

The game is multiplayer. You log in, create a character by putting points into Health/Action Points/Melee Damage/Ranged Damage/Ranged Distance. It's intended to be quite balanced so that a character with 20 points spent in any direction is fairly comparable to any other character's 20 point spread, whether they be melee oriented or ranged. Health is a direct representation of your armor. It doesn't make a lot of sense, but it plays out well in that the more health you have the more 'noise' you make (in theory, heavy armor = quite noisy).

To explain noise a little further (as well as sight), I'm calculating a 'threat' per location/character based on noise made or what is seen when looking upon a character. If an enemy sees you, it considers you to be a threat based on how close you are to it and what you may have done to it already. Your existence in itself registers a slight amount of threat. If you were to move within sound range of an enemy, it would 'hear' your movements (higher threat based on just how much noise you make). If the threat you generated while behind the enemy is high enough, it will turn towards you to investigate. So even while in combat with one target, your movements could be not only detected but enough to sway the enemy in your direction. Attacking, moving, and using certain items will all make some amount of noise. The lower your armor/health though, the greater chance you will have of being able to play in a stealthy like manner. Oh, and not all monsters like one another. There have been a number of times in what I already have thus far in which a group of 3-4 goblins get in a fight with an ogre. While the ogre is engaged, you can quite easily in full plate 'sneak' up on him to assist the goblins or simply pick off the goblins and fight a much weaker ogre once they are killed. As the threat from his front is so high in knowing what the goblins are capable of, hearing you approach from the back isn't enough to warrant his turning towards you. However, if a neutral patrol of kobold passed behind the ogre who is engaged with 3 goblins, that might entice both goblins and ogre alike to focus on the kobold instead of each other.

So, considering those few stats and aspects thus far, as a player you could play in a number of styles. From the beefy warrior archetype to an assassin, ranged character to a stealth pro, your choices could be quite interesting. Things like double damage while attacking behind a foe aid in these tactics, or blocking only being doable from your front while equipped with a shield.

To touch on stats a little more (as well as items), after character creation you are only given the absolute necessities to meet your character's stat pools. If you went high health, you'll be auto-equipped with plate armor. If you went high ranged distance and poor ranged damage, you might have a long bow, but shoddy arrows. Every piece of equipment gives to some stats and takes away from others to assist in balancing. If you are in full plate, carrying a 2H weapon, you won't have many action points or moving/attacking in itself will cost more to perform. A side note on action points, even turning your character to look in another direction will cost you a point at minimum.

A couple example turns:

1. Turn to face enemy, step twice towards them, attack with ranged, side step behind wall for cover. The enemy closes and attacks with melee, doing decent damage.
2. You switch to your melee weapon/shield, step to the side of your foe, attack for 150% damage (side attack), and put up your shield for blocking. The enemy attacks, doing 75% damage due to your block.
3. Having already explored the terrain, you backstep 4 spaces, pull out your bow and spend your remaining action points for the turn to perform a more calculated shot slaying your enemy.

One last point, as this is multiplayer, I went a slightly odd route to accommodate a turn based game using a more free-form multiplayer style. All players and NPCs move freely, but not in excess of a specific time increment. It only switches to true turn based actions once a combat session has begun. A combat session has begun once a threat is established against or by a player/NPC. All those within the session take their turns in order. The biggest flaws of this design is that enemies could easily wonder into your combat session or you could simply stand still within a session while awaiting your friend's arrival. As each session is operated individually, you could in theory be in one combat session for hours while another player mows down the entire level of the dungeon.



[quote name='Mythics' timestamp='1326740918' post='4903321']
I do understand having a character improving their ability to swing a sword after swinging it a thousand times and all, but I don't see how the scale bends the way it does in some games. Sneezing at sewer rats you fought early in the game shouldn't be enough to slay them now simply because you've killed a hundred of them.

So, low-level opponents should have a roughly equal chance of winning against high-level opponents (be they players or NPCs) via tactics provided by your sight-and-sound mechanics. By sight-and-sound in a roguelike, do you basically mean that some textual/graphical hints are displayed on the screen to show you what you could do to make, say, a good swing at your opponent?
[/quote]

Well, I only intend to have the total points spent on a NPC reflect their strength, no actual level. The same would go for the players.

As far as the sight and sound mechanics, they are more or less to indicate the threat level of an opponent or the threat of what might be to your side/behind you/down X tunnel/etc.

[quote name='AltarofScience' timestamp='1326774925' post='4903490']

[quote name='Mythics' timestamp='1326740918' post='4903321']
I do understand having a character improving their ability to swing a sword after swinging it a thousand times and all, but I don't see how the scale bends the way it does in some games. Sneezing at sewer rats you fought early in the game shouldn't be enough to slay them now simply because you've killed a hundred of them.

So, low-level opponents should have a roughly equal chance of winning against high-level opponents (be they players or NPCs) via tactics provided by your sight-and-sound mechanics. By sight-and-sound in a roguelike, do you basically mean that some textual/graphical hints are displayed on the screen to show you what you could do to make, say, a good swing at your opponent?
[/quote]
I don't understand his question at all. Player skill in a roguelike? I always thought RPGs were supposed to be about role playing your character. That's why they use character skills.
I guess that's why he said don't think of it like an rpg.
Does he want an action adventure game?
[/quote]

That's exactly why I said not to think of it as a RPG. It's probably best for me to not label it as any specific game type as it alludes to a specific preconception of what the game would be like and/or contain. If I was to describe it at all at this point, it would just be a turn based strategy dungeon crawler.



[quote name='Mythics' timestamp='1326740918' post='4903321']
I'm hoping to have my game more about positioning, relying on your senses, paying close attention to your surroundings, etc and much less about picking up the Battleaxe of Unending Bonuses.

I think you have only the option to add some tactical combat simulation. This could give the player the chance to defeat an enemy or a group of enemies, otherwise too powerful for the character, by tactical finesse. It is like chess, roguelikes like tome4 are going in this direction.

Otherwise the simple representation and turn base nature of a roguelike game are restricting the usage of certain human skills like reflex, fast movement, sound awareness etc. Adding sound to a game with a top down view will not help you to get a better sense of the scene, thought it could help to improve immersion. Whenever I play a fps game like BF3, sound helps a lot, but only because of the first person perspective which is mandatory to give you an immediate hint of events in your direct surrounding.

Awareness and fast reaction, which are important for many action games, not neccessarly only for FPS games, need atleast a realtime environment. You need to be aware of a certain situation, do a fast decision and need to execute this decision in a short period of time. This is not really useful in a turn based game.
[/quote]

I agree very much. My biggest concern with the game thus far is that without character progression, the preconception of the style will give a negative light on the game without truly experiencing the game. When players realize how well they need to play to progress through the dungeon, that might give them a nice kick in the pants worth of motivation, but how long could one enjoy nearly non-stop exploration/tactical combat?

Without much of a story or lore behind the game, item acquisition, new abilities/spells regularly, what could I do that might be somewhat innovative to keep a player entertained?

To modify my original question, how can I put skill in the hands of the player rather than the character, without having a game that doesn't get played?

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Character progression and skill based games are not opposed to each other. You just have to make character progression provide a smaller boost in power in comparison to decisions.

To give an example, take the same game with low and high character progression. The player and the enemy both have 100 HP, deal 5 damage on a poor decision, 10 in normal and 20 with a good decision. If a good player can keep making good decisions and make the enemy take poor decisions, he will kill them with 75HP left. An average player will have 50% win rate while a bad player will always die.

Now throw in progression. With low progression, the player might have 120HP and deal 6/12/24 damage. The average player now wins with 30~40HP left. The bad player still loses, but might end up winning every now and then. With high progression, the player might have 200HP and deal 10/20/40 damage. The bad player can't lose even if he plays like an idiot.

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Character progression and skill based games are not opposed to each other. You just have to make character progression provide a smaller boost in power in comparison to decisions.

To give an example, take the same game with low and high character progression. The player and the enemy both have 100 HP, deal 5 damage on a poor decision, 10 in normal and 20 with a good decision. If a good player can keep making good decisions and make the enemy take poor decisions, he will kill them with 75HP left. An average player will have 50% win rate while a bad player will always die.

Now throw in progression. With low progression, the player might have 120HP and deal 6/12/24 damage. The average player now wins with 30~40HP left. The bad player still loses, but might end up winning every now and then. With high progression, the player might have 200HP and deal 10/20/40 damage. The bad player can't lose even if he plays like an idiot.


The issue is, eventually with even the lowest form of progression, your character is gaining power. There could be some point, more than likely, where you could strip your character naked and jump into a pit of 50 of the weakest mobs in the game and flutter around like an imbecile taking every one of them out with ease.

If it helps to, think of the game as more like an action adventure sort of game. Think of it like the original Super Mario Brothers. You had X lives, you progressed through level after level of increasingly difficult challenges, gaining temporary boosts and losing them equally.. and the end result was a scoreboard and how far you made it through the game (potentially to the end).

There shouldn't need to be character progression to have a great game, but what exactly is it that can replace character progression in a top-down, turn based, tactics style game? Storyline is a quite popular answer, as would be a score like in Super Mario Brothers. Simply knowing you fared better this time than last could easily entice you to play again and again. But would any of these things be enough? If not, which is my opinion, what could be added to replace character progression in a solely skill based game?

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